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Tags: Arlen Specter

Arlen Specter Avoids an Uncharacteristically Classy Exit



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This morning’s edition is the last Morning Jolt of 2010 – a pleasant surprise for me from the editors, and hopefully not too unpleasant a surprise for you. Regular morning updates will resume January 3, 2011. But in the unlikely chance you find yourself going through withdrawal as the Christmas holiday approaches… seek psychological help immediately. If that fails, you can check the midday Three Martini Lunch podcasts, as Greg Corombus and I are slated to continue those each weekday through the New Year. And, of course, this spot will update as news warrants…

Don’t Let the Door Hit You, Arlen.

Just think, America: 2011 will bring us a world free from sitting Sen. Arlen Specter, Whatever-Pa.

He went out with… well, not a bang. I suppose we could say he raged, raged against the dying of the Senate career and perks of incumbency.

Specter did an effective job of immolating any minute shreds of sympathy Tim Carney had for him: “This morning I was starting to feel a bit sad about Arlen Specter’s departure from the Senate. While I rooted heartily for his defeat in 2004 and 2010, I consider him to be stubbornly independent of special interests, which is a rare and laudable thing in Washington. But then I watched his farewell address — or as he called it, his “closing argument.” The former Republican and Democratic Senator showed why he was called “Snarlin’ Arlen”: His closing argument was an angry, petty, mean, self-serving screed that betrayed a total lack of self-awareness. … He attacked the “activist” Supreme Court for infringing on Congressional prerogative — this is the man who killed Robert Bork’s nomination out of fear Bork would overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s hard to think of a decision in the last 50 years that was more “activist” and trampled more on legislative prerogative, but Specter has called Roe ”inviolate.” Speaking of Bork, this was where Specter showed his petty meanness. He gratuitously brought up Bork in his speech, saying, “Justice Bork — excuse me … Judge Bork.” Stay classy, Arlen. The climax of the speech was his thinly-veiled complaint that Pat Toomey primaried him, and that Jim DeMint was ready to endorse Toomey. This shows too much “ideological purity,” shows the power of “right-wing extremists,” and amounts to ‘cannibalism.’”

At Hot Air, Allahpundit exclaims, “How un-self-aware did it get? Dude‘Mr. Specter, who changed parties after he determined that his support for President Obama’s economic stimulus made him unelectable in a Republican primary, said that under the current political environment, a senator could be severely penalized for one vote cast out of thousands, making compromise impossible.

“Repeatedly, senior Republican senators have recently abandoned long-held positions out of fear of losing their seats over a single vote or because of party discipline,” Mr. Specter said.’ Remember, this is a guy who became a Republican in the first place only because he thought he couldn’t win the Democratic primary for Philadelphia D.A., then flatly admitted to switching parties last year because he thought it would improve his chances of being reelected. And switching parties also meant switching principles, or whatever the word “principle” might mean as applied to Specter: Remember how his views on health care “evolved” just in time to justify voting for ObamaCare? You can watch the whole thing at C-SPAN but here’s the bit of him whining about cannibalism. Somewhere a single tear rolls down Charlie Crist’s cheek.” 

I’ll give Paul Mirengoff of Powerline the last jab at the end of Specter’s bizarre, lengthy career: “Arlen Specter delivered his farewell speech to the Senate today. He pretentiously called it his “final argument” but at least managed, I hope, to avoid citation to Scottish law.”

Senator Pat Toomey can’t get here soon enough.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Pat Toomey

Moderates Successfully Reinforce Image as Untrustworthy Hacks



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Between Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist, Mike Castle refusing to endorse O’Donnell — a forgivable sentiment the day after a bitter defeat, less so as time goes by — and the rumor that Murkowski is running, the RINO-hunters have a point that the moderates never seem to be willing to compromise or put the party’s interest first.

The NRSC will help elect a lot of winning GOP candidates this year, but between Specter, Crist, and Murkowski, they have had an embarrassing cycle . . .

Tags: Arlen Specter , Charlie Crist , Lisa Murkowski , Mike Castle

Money Well Spent



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My old colleague Greg Giroux of Congressional Quarterly notes the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $1.2 million to help out Arlen Specter and $193,000 to help out Cal Cunningham, who lost the North Carolina primary. They also spent $242,000 to help Blanche Lincoln, who won her primary.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Blanche Lincoln , Cal Cunningham

They Could Have Picked Up a Newspaper



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The story from the White House is that they simply sent Bill Clinton to see if Joe Sestak was serious about running for Senate.

Well, buzz about him as a possible Senate candidate had been around since the preceding November. The Los Angeles TimesNovember 26, 2008:

The Northeast’s dwindling cast of Senate Republicans has Democrats circling Arlen Specter’s seat in Pennsylvania, convinced the party is well-positioned to make a competitive race out of the 2010 election . . . Others considered in the mix include Rep. Joe Sestak, who is sitting on $3 million in campaign funds.

So we’re to believe that at some point, Rahm Emanuel said, “Hey, there’s a two-term Democratic congressman who’s sitting on $3 million and who has been rumored to be interested in running for Senate since last year who’s making noises about taking on a cranky 80-year-old five-term incumbent whose popularity is tanking. Hey, let’s send a former president to see if he’s bluffing.”

Tags: Arlen Specter , Bill Clinton , Joe Sestak

Did Joe Sestak’s Surge Save Mark Critz?



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Talking to an NRCC guy who’s looked at last night’s numbers extensively, he concludes that the polls and expectations in Pennsylvania’s special election were thrown off not merely by the competitive Democratic Senate primary, but particularly by Joe Sestak’s surge in the final two weeks.

Committee strategists worried about the effect of the Senate primary at first, but as they started getting polling numbers back, they suspected the special election would be the chief driver for turnout in this part of the state. Until the beginning of May or so, that seemed to be the case. But in the final weeks, Sestak’s surge — driven by massive amounts of television advertising, hitting Specter for his ties to George W. Bush — drove a sudden burst of interest in voting among the Democratic base. This analyst thinks these Sestak-driven voters amounted to about 8,000 to 10,000 voters, roughly the size of Critz’s margin of victory. The Sestak-surge-driven Democrats turned out because they were determined to toss out Specter; they were more liberal and more partisan than your average district Democrat. Thus, Tim Burns, who usually ran well among Democrats, in the neighborhood of 20 percent, probably only won about 15 percent of Democrats last night.

This NRCC number-cruncher notes that on paper, the Republicans did have high-intensity turnout; they outperformed the highest Republican level of turnout for a primary – although that’s not the highest bar to clear; since Murtha usually appeared untouchable, GOP primaries in this district weren’t usually big affairs, with 20,000 to 26,000 votes. The Republicans brought out 45,000 votes and expected the Democrats to bring out about 60,000 votes. (If Burns took 20 percent of that, and kept most of the Republican vote, he would win handily.)

Instead, 83,000 Democratic voters turned out.

This NRCC number-cruncher isn’t drawing a ton of conclusions from this race yet, but he wonders if there’s a need for Republicans to be wary of poll numbers indicating rural, red-state, or coal-country Democrats are turning against the party they traditionally support: “We can’t take that at face value. We’ve got to have a little cynicism about those numbers, because these are folks who have been voting for Democrats for decades, and their moms and dads were voting for Democrats for decades before that. They don’t just jump across that easily.”

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Mark Critz , NRCC , Tim Burns

Why Did Joe Sestak Lose Momentum?



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It looks like Democrat Joe Sestak will end the career of Sen. Arlen Specter. If this comes to pass, it’s probably a tougher race for Republican Pat Toomey. But there’s something intriguing about how this primary fight developed. Sestak kept his powder dry, then went up on the airwaves…

As you can see, once the Sestak offensive begain, the margin closed pretty quickly. Specter had healthy double-digit margins in March, and then by early May it was within the margin of error. The challenger caught up, and then… the momentum stopped. We’ll see how Sestak does tonight; right now, he seems on pace for a narrow win. But he managed to have just enough to catch up, and then, for some reason, he couldn’t pull away. The Rendell machine? Appreciation for seniority? Last-minute doubts about Sestak?

UPDATE: At about 10:15 Eastern, the AP calls the race for Sestak.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak

If Specter Loses, Where Does He Go From Here?



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A reader wonders how Specter would react to a primary defeat:

If Snarlin’ Arlen loses his primary to Sestak, can’t we anticipate the following:  

1. He will almost certainly conclude that his loss is not his fault in any way.

2. He can’t really punish the voters for dumping him.

3. He can, however, point to the lack of support from the administration in the waning days of the campaign.

4.  Since Specter is the vengeful type, might that mean that we see a more “independent” Specter in the last days of his Senate career, during which he takes some high profile stands against the administration and his leadership in retaliation for their lack of support?

I would note, however, that a man like Specter runs for a sixth term at age 80 after surviving multiple bouts with cancer because he wants to be active, important, and powerful. The traditional retired politician activities – teaching, lobbying, heading up think tanks, writing books, doing television appearances – hold no interest for him. I think Specter hasn’t put much thought into what he did if his Senate career ended, but I suspect he would prefer an appointed position in the executive branch – an ambassadorship, perhaps – to almost any private sector option.

Tags: Arlen Specter

Predictions for the May Primaries...



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Sometimes I’m really right (Massachusetts special Senate election) and sometimes I’m not. I see things similarly to John Miller.

My sense of how things play out today:

Pennsylvania Senate primary, Democrats: Joe Sestak 52 percent, Specter 48 percent. I’m less confident of this one than I was a few days ago. Almost all of the momentum is on Sestak’s side, the crowds for Specter’s events have been small, and the White House is reportedly preparing for a Specter defeat.

But the polling shows a high number of undecided voters – at least 10 percent in most polls -  and I wonder if those folks just stay home. Sestak’s had plenty of time to make the sale to these folks, and has advertised heavily. He’s caught up close to Specter, but you would figure in this environment, running against an 80-year-old five-term incumbent who was a Republican up until about a year ago, he should be able to roar ahead. I’ll stick with my original prediction, but if Specter ends up eking out a victory by the skin of his teeth, thanks to a better organization, I won’t be surprised. And, of course, Pat Toomey will be pleased.

Arkansas Senate Primary, Democrats: Blanche Lincoln 49 percent, Bill Halter 47 percent, Other 4 percent. This one is rather moot, as it will probably go to a runoff, but I think that Lincoln is safe in a primary this year. Again, Halter’s had a lot of time to close the sale in an anti-incumbent year, and still trails most polls.

Arkansas Senate Primary, Republicans: Rep. John Boozman way ahead of everyone with 47 percent; he and Gilbert Baker are in a runoff.

Kentucky Senate Primary, Democrats: Daniel Mongiardo over Jack Conway. Yeah, you don’t care about this one.

Kentucky Senate Primary, Republicans: Rand Paul over Trey Grayson. Won’t be close, something like 56 percent to 44 percent.

Pennsylvania’s 12th District Special House Election: Republican Tim Burns over Mark Critz by a hair. I feel more confident knowing that Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman is making the same call. There’s more enthusiasm on the Republican side, but Critz is running in a district with a lot of Democrats. Independents appear to be breaking pretty heavily to Burns. Critz hasn’t been that bad a candidate, but he’s in a district where Obama’s approval is low, Pelosi is disdained, the health care bill is hated, cap-and-trade is seen as a job killer, and unemployment is high. What is he supposed to talk about? What is he supposed to campaign on?

Tags: Arlen Specter , Bill Halter , Blanche Lincoln , Joe Sestak , John Boozman , Mark Critz , Rand Paul , Tim Burns

Quinnipiac Puts Sestak Up by 1 Over Specter



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Yet another poll showing a close race in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary between Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary goes down to the wire with U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak taking 42 percent of likely primary voters to Sen. Arlen Specter’s 41 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted through Sunday night and released today. With 16 percent undecided and 25 percent of those who do back a candidate saying they might change their mind, the race is too close to call.

“The Sestak-Specter race is a dead heat and could go either way. Sen. Arlen Specter has the party organization behind him, which should help with turnout. But Congressman Joe Sestak could benefit from the relatively large group of undecided voters. Generally, incumbents don’t do all that well with undecideds, who are more likely to vote for the challenger or not vote,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Back on May 3, I predicted a Sestak win; the best-case scenario for Pat Toomey, I would posit, is a very narrow Specter win.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak

Doesn’t Anybody Want to Listen to Arlen Specter?



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Campaign Spot reader Paul noticed this line in the fourth paragraph of a story on ABC News:

Specter kicked off a day of appearances in and around his home city of Philadelphia at a rally at a sprawling cargo terminal along the Delaware River, which is being deepened to allow the entry of larger ships in a dredging project for which the former Republican has led the fight over much of his 30-year Senate career. It is expected to create an estimated 125,000 jobs.

“The job’s not finished, and I need another term in office to bring these 125,000 jobs to this region,” he told reporters just before speaking at a windy, riverfront rally that attracted about 100 union members.

Really? The longtime incumbent comes out to a Democratic stronghold, two days away from the primary, and only 100 union members show up? That seems like a giant red flag.

Yesterday I got to hear a bit of Specter’s debate with Democratic primary rival Joe Sestak*. Obviously, I’m not a Democrat, but if I were, I think I would prefer Sestak; he kept bringing up Specter’s ties to the Bush administration and other Republican efforts.

Specter, for his part, mentioned at least four times that he stood up to “the Tea Party Gang.” Besides making critics of the health-care plan sound like a Dick Tracy villain, no one made much out of the fact that Specter was bragging about standing up to his own constituents.

The good news for Republican Pat Toomey is that the two Democrats spent the debate trying to out-liberal each other; each one insisted that he was more opposed to extending the Bush tax cuts, more supportive of gun control, etc. That may sell in a Democratic primary, but will be a much tougher sell in a general election, particularly in a year like this.

*I originally wrote Stupak. Of course, if Specter wins Tuesday, it means this was a terrible year to be a Rust Belt House Democrat with a last name that starts with “S” and ends with “ak.”

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Pat Toomey

Or the Two Democrats Could Merge to Form ‘Specstak’



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Three polls out this morning in Pennsylvania’s primary: the Morning Call tracking poll finds Sestak and Specter tied at 45 percent each; Quinnipiac finds Specter ahead by 2 percentage points, and Franklin and Marshall finds Sestak ahead by 2 percentage points.

I’m sticking with my prediction of a Sestak win, but the optimum scenario for Republican Pat Toomey — a narrow Specter win that leaves a lot of Democrats unenthused about their turncoat nominee — still looks like a real possibility.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Pat Toomey

‘Mr. President, It’s Arlen. I Could Use Some Help . . . Hello? Hello?’



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From Wednesday’s edition of the Morning Jolt:

President Obama “seems unlikely” to visit Pennsylvania to support Arlen Specter in his primary. Specter says nobody guaranteed him a cleared primary, but Rendell was publicly making noises about it in March 2009. One way or another, I’m betting somebody’s word reached their expiration date. And Specter’s Senate career looks likely to reach its own expiration date soon, too.

Tags: Arlen Specter

Arlen Specter’s Slide Continues



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Today, the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and the Morning Call’s tracking poll in Pennsylvania finds Joe Sestak
up over Sen. Arlen Specter, 47-42 percent, in that state’s Democratic Senate primary.

I wrote on May 3: “I’ll make an audacious prediction: Joe Sestak will beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.”

UPDATE: Rasmussen sees a Sestak surge, too; they put the challenger up, 47 percent to 42 percent.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader in Pennsylvania is underwhelmed with Specter’s ads:

Specter has an ad where he touts his experience and gives 3 minor ‘achievements’ (voted for stem cell research, voted to raise minimum wage 8 times, and some other forgettable thing).  I turned to my wife and said, “30+ years and that’s all he can come up with?”  He -is- in trouble.  He won’t beat Sestak.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak

The Evaporation of Arlen Specter’s Lead Was Predictable



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Not to brag, but I wrote on May 3: “I’ll make an audacious prediction: Joe Sestak will beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.”

Four days later, the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and the Morning Call begin their tracking poll and find: “Incumbent Senator Arlen Specter and challenger Congressman Joe Sestak are tied in the race to garner the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate.”

More importantly, this is the first poll to find them tied.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak

Doomsday May Come Before Toomsday For Arlen Specter



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I’ll make an audacious prediction: Joe Sestak will beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Sestak appears to be closing the gap a bit. I imagine Specter’s name ID advantage built most of his early lead, and Sestak’s television offensive is starting to pick up steam. Specter is trying a Crist-style negative barrage, but I don’t think that is going to work for a lot of entrenched incumbents this year. Negative ads haven’t done much for Jon Corzine or Charlie Crist in recent months.

What’s more, I think this is a rather important test of the self-respect of Pennsylvania Democrats. President Obama and Vice President Biden, eager to get that 60th vote, tried to ensure a clear primary for Specter. But ultimately, who represents Keystone State Democrats isn’t up to some guy from Delaware and some guy from Hawaii California New York Illinois the District of Columbia. Most Pennsylvania Democrats have been voting against Arlen Specter for the better part of a generation; it ought to take more than a year and a half of toeing the party line for them to forget all the times they’ve disagreed with him, and/or his recent murmurs that maybe he should have remained in the GOP. If they really do back Specter because the DSCC tell them to, they rank among biggest political cheap dates of all time.

I think Pat Toomey will have a slightly tougher race against Sestak; by eliminating the incumbent, it takes away the clearest contrast between a candidate of change and a candidate of more-of-the-same. But Toomey will be running against Washington, and either Democrat will be seen as part of “the system.” Sestak voted for health care, voted for the stimulus, voted for cap-and-trade, and he’s F-rated by the NRA.

(I would argue that the ideal scenario for Toomey fans is a narrow win for Specter, and that scenario seems quite possible.)

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Pat Toomey , Pennsylvania

Doomsday May Come Before Toomsday for Arlen Specter



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I’ll make an audacious prediction: Joe Sestak will beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Sestak appears to be closing the gap a bit. I imagine Specter’s name-ID advantage built most of his early lead, and Sestak’s television offensive is starting to pick up steam. Specter is trying a Crist-style negative barrage, but I don’t think that is going to work for a lot of entrenched incumbents this year. Negative ads haven’t done much for Jon Corzine or Charlie Crist in recent months.

What’s more, I think this is a rather important test of the self-respect of Pennsylvania Democrats. President Obama and Vice President Biden, eager to get that 60th vote, tried to ensure a clear primary for Specter. But ultimately, who represents Keystone State Democrats isn’t up to some guy from Delaware and some guy from Hawaii California New York Illinois the District of Columbia. Most Pennsylvania Democrats have been voting against Arlen Specter for the better part of a generation; it ought to take more than a year and a half of toeing the party line for them to forget all the times they’ve disagreed with him, and/or his recent murmurs that maybe he should have remained in the GOP. If they really do back Specter because the DSCC tells them to, they rank among the biggest political cheap dates of all time.

I think Pat Toomey will have a slightly tougher race against Sestak; by eliminating the incumbent, it takes away the clearest contrast between a candidate of change and a candidate of more-of-the-same. But Toomey will be running against Washington, and either Democrat will be seen as part of “the system.” Sestak voted for health care, voted for the stimulus, voted for cap-and-trade, and is F-rated by the NRA.

(I would argue that the ideal scenario for Toomey fans is a narrow win for Specter, and that scenario seems quite possible.)

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Pat Toomey , Pennsylvania

Too Late to Go Back Now, Arlen



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Oh, Arlen.

At times, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter has wondered if he should have stayed a Republican.

For three decades, Specter prided himself on being a coalition builder, relishing a self-appointed role as a liaison striving to find the moderate solutions to liberal and conservative extremes.

Now as a Democrat, that role has vanished. For that reason alone, Specter has questioned his storied party switch.

‘’Well, I probably shouldn’t say this,’’ he said over lunch last month. ‘’But I have thought from time to time that I might have helped the country more if I’d stayed a Republican.’’

Meanwhile, Pat Toomey is touting the SpecterSwitch.

Tags: Arlen Specter , Pat Toomey

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