Philadelphia — The news first came from the corner of the Sheraton ballroom, mezzanine level, right by the hotel butcher slicing mini-roast-beef sandwiches onto donors’ plates. The flat-screen television, a foot away, was tuned to MSNBC. The volume was off but the news was clear, thanks to a big, fat check mark between Chris Matthews’s blond mop and a snapshot of Rep. Joe Sestak. Sestak beats Specter. Three words to shock the world? Screams and moans filling Center City? No, not here, not tonight. The already quiet, sparse crowd kept munching and drinking. The DJ kept the jams coming. And why not. The news wasn’t a surprise. They saw this coming. Reports of low turnout all day had already dimmed most of Team Specter’s hopes.
While his supporters didn’t seem floored by the news, Specter did, as he walked into the ballroom minutes later, his wife Joan and son Shanin at his side. His face was worn and tired, his eyes wet, his steps slow. In his concession speech, he thanked his family, Senate staff, and campaign boosters. He congratulated Sestak and nodded his appreciation to Rendell and Obama for their support. It was classy and brief. But you could feel the hurt — for centrist Democrats and their ilk, this was the repudiation of a lion. For Pennsylvania, it’s the end of a political era. Regardless of your opinion of Specter, his political career was one heckuva roller-coaster ride — fun to cover, hard to predict, and, if you weren’t careful, dizzying.
The news breaks:
The senator exits:
His friends spin: