|So Snarlin’ Arlen is going to change his voter registration from R to D. More like R&D, as in research & development. He did the research; he said very explicitly that the reason for the jump is not principles but rather polling data that said he could not win a Republican primary. And then the development: he hopped from one ship to the other.Despite telling President Obama that he is now a “loyal Democrat,” he has already voted against President Obama’s budget, reiterated his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, reiterated his opposition to Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Office of Legal Counsel, and voted against bankruptcy reformsproposed by Democrats.In fact, regarding the Employee Free Choice Act, Pennsylvania’s organized labor comunnity isn’t going to let Specter off the hook just because of a cosmetic Party label adjustment. If Specter continues to opposed EFCA, as he promised, labor won’t support him. Further, with Specter’s seniority in the Senate threatening to knock Democrats (who have been Democrats for longer than 48 hours) down a rung in the seniority ladder, some Senate Democrats are very unhappy with any committee leadership rolesthat Specter might get (and that Senate Democrats might have to cede to him).While Specter now enjoys the support of President Obama and Governor Ed Rendell, he is not guaranteed support from Pennsylvania Labor, the bulk of the Senate Democratic caucus, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Congressional delegation, or Pennsylvania’s grassroots activists. And why should he? Specter said just over a month ago:
Further, the NRSC is reminding Democratic voters of Specter’s close relationship with one George W. Bush. Ideologically, Specter isn’t all of a sudden going to be a “loyal Democrat,” his words notwithstanding; and, personally, Specter has displayed that he is not trustworthy and that he’ll put personal politics well ahead of any principles.
So what are Democrats who want to support a real Democrat for Senate in Pennsylvania to do?
I think the answer to that question is: urge Congressman Joe Sestak to challenge Specter in the Democratic primary. Why Joe Sestak? A few reasons.
First, who could beat Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary? Based solely on my looking over the field of potential Democratic candidates, I think only three names spring up: Sestak, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, and state Auditor Jack Wagner. Schwartz has reportedly already decided against a Specter challenge. Weeks ago, Wagner was reported to not be interested in a Senate bid. (All due respect to announced candidate Joe Torsella and his solid $600,000 Q1 haul – my guess is that much of it came from contacts through Torsella’s poltiical mentor, Rendell, who could turn off the spigots in Q2.) Sestak, however, refused to close the door to a run in the immediate wake of Specter’s announcement.
Subsequently, Sestak has further widened the door to a primary challenge. He has been “playing phone tag” over the past few days with DSCC Chair Bob Menendez. Further, Sestak “feels strongly” that Democratic voters in Pennsylvania, not Washington dealmakers, should decide who the nominee will be. Click here for video of Sestak on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning; and click here for audio of Sestak on The Bill Press Show.
Second, can Sestak put together and finance a credible campaign, even with Ed Rendell pushing Pennsylvania Democrats toward Specter? Yes. At the end of March, Sestak had a bankroll in excess of $3.3 million. Just pulling an estimate out of the air, Sestak might only need $5 million for the primary, so he’s two-thirds of the way there already.
Third, would his politics be an upgrade over Specter? According to the National Journal’s 2008 Vote Ratings, Congressman Sestak was the 150th most liberal member and the 277th most conservative member. He also has a Progressive Punch score of 93.25. By no means is Sestak a liberal – but he’s very solid. Further, he brings a powerful profile: the highest-ranking former military officer to serve in Congress who happens to also be leading the charge on revoking Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Sestak is 100% pro-choice, has enjoyed big support from labor, and gets high marks on middle class issues.
Add it all up. Congressman Sestak has the profile, the resources, and the will to run. He would be a major upgrade over the status quo. He may be the only person who could ensure that a real Democrat is nominated for Senate over Arlen Specter.
Will he make the jump? Stay tuned.
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