If Chris Matthews wants to run for Senate against Arlen Specter, he’d better get moving. So Rick Santorum, former senator from the Keystone State, tells National Review Online. “I think Chris would be a credible primary candidate under the right circumstances,” Senator Santorum says. “Since Chris would have no geographic base in the state, he would need to have at least one primary opponent from each of the Democratic strongholds — Pittsburgh and Philadelphia — to be competitive. The real questions are, how soon will he come back to the state to begin running full time, and how much retail politics does the celebrity have in him? Others are organizing and raising money now and are getting around to the county Democratic dinners sewing up support.”
Would it be a good move for the MSNBC star? NRO asked some additional Pennsylvania and media specialists.
JOHN BRABENDER Chris Matthews running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania is an absolutely marvelous idea. That is, if you are Arlen Specter. If the Specter campaign could design their perfect opponent, it would look remarkably like Chris Matthews.
This is not meant to be a harsh criticism of Matthews, but rather an honest reality of the complexities of Specter. Specter’s poll numbers over the years reveal he is far from a typical Republican. The paradoxical truth is that he is frequently viewed more favorably among Democrats than Republicans. And in a state with a 12-point Democratic majority, that’s not a bad thing.
In 2004, Specter sweated out a razor-thin primary victory over Congressman Pat Toomey. This would appear to predict a difficult general election, particularly in a presidential year where turnout in the almost unanimously Democratic city of Philadelphia would be high — yet Specter was reelected by a comfortable 9 points.
A Matthews candidacy does for Specter what he has trouble doing for himself: It solidifies his support among conservatives. Specter’s angst on wedge votes like Card Check vanishes. And although Chris Matthews has no voting record to defend, his years of pontificating would be an opposition researcher’s dream come true.
— John Brabender is a Republican media consultant.
ALEX CHARYNA A number of Pennsylvania politicos’ names have been mentioned as challengers to Senator Specter in 2010: Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Congressman Joe Sestak, former deputy speaker of the Pennsylvania House Josh Shapiro. But unless Governor Ed Rendell (who is term limited in 2010) decides to run, no candidate will have the name recognition that Chris Matthews instantly brings to the race.
The Matthews campaign and the Pennsylvania Democrats need to balance that recognition with a number of factors. There are miles of videotape of Matthews saying things that could eventually end up in a campaign commercial. Matthews has also received a lot of derision from the Left, as a result of some perceived transgressions against liberalism.
The other factor is Specter himself. Conservatives in Pennsylvania have long had heartburn over his voting record, and as a result Pat Toomey nearly took the sitting senator out in the 2004 primary. There have been whisperings about another conservative primary challenge to Specter; a Chris Matthews candidacy might just rally the conservative base in his direction.
Specter’s political epitaph has been written prematurely many times before, and he has overcome them.
As for whether Matthews should drop Hardball, the more pertinent question is: With such low ratings, would anyone notice or care?
MARK DION The speculation that Chris Matthews is looking to run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania is intriguing, for no other reason than that a debate between Matthews and Sen. Arlen Specter would be quite a match-up of two long-winded, pro-choice, self-absorbed, tax-loving, pork-supporting know-it-alls. O.K., there wouldn’t be much to debate, but it does hold certain entertainment value.
But before we can get to that point, both Matthews and Specter would most likely have had to survive bruising and costly primaries.
Matthews’s entry into the race wouldn’t necessarily clear the Democratic field. Democrats such as Rep. Allyson Schwartz and State Rep. Josh Shapiro have laid groundwork for their own campaigns and aren’t likely to bow out to an unproven vote-getter like Matthews. In addition, in a closed primary, the left wing of the Democratic party could make Matthews pay for all his Hillary-bashing during the 2008 presidential primaries.