New polling from Susquehana reveals a potential danger for Arlen Specter: Pennsylvania Democrats don't like having nominations decided for them by powerful insiders.
As you may know, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter recently switched from Republican to Democrat. Should Arlen Specter be the Democratic nominee for the 2010 election for US Senate or should he face a challenge from one or more other Democrats in the primary?
1. Specter should be nominee 28%
2. Specter should face challenge 63%
3. Undecided 9%
Only 28% of Pennsylvania Democrats would prefer an uncontested primary for Senate next year. While such an awkwardly worded question does not have a direct implication on Joe Sestak's chances, it does show a potential danger for Arlen specter in receiving so much establishment support. Voters don't like having elections decided for them.
There could be just as much, if not more, blowback than benefit, for Arlen Specter in trotting out endorsement after endorsement. One case in point would be Howard Dean's 2004 presidential election campaign, which began to backslide heavily in late December and early January even as Dean kept trotting out endorsement after endorsement. Another example would be Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Senate primary, when he was endorsed by virtually every Democrat in the country, including Bill Clinton. Further, in 2008, Barack Obama kept surging through January and February, even though Hillary Clinton kept the lead in superdelegate endorsements until early March.
Waves of endorsements often proved helpful for a short-term boast, but almost appear to be detrimental over the long term. "Vote for me, because X likes me," is not a very convincing argument. It shifts focus away from the candidate, and can even point of deficits between the candidate being endorsed and the famous Democrat doing the endorsing. "Senator X and I disagree on just about everything that is important, but vote for him anyway," is also not a convincing campaign argument.. Such endorsements might be especially ineffective for Democrats, who like to view themselves as unbiased individuals making up their own minds based on facts rather than pre-existing beliefs.
Endorsements don't necessarily seal anything in Democratic primaries. Further, as the poll above shows, there is clear potential for using such endorsements to create blowback among voters by arguing they sense that someone is trying to decide the election for them. Don't think for a moment that Pennsylvania Democrats say "how high" when Ed Rendell asks them to jump (Rendell wasn't even endodrsed by the Democratic state committee when he ran for Governor). They probably will ask "how high" if President Obama asks them to jump, but it remains to b seen just how hard Obama will campaign for Specter.