An Arlen Specter Update: Just Deserts On The Way?

“Could Specter Face A Democratic Primary He Can’t Win? Oh Yeah…

…The reality is that the liberal activist groups have a lot of reason to primary him — and if they find a credible challenger to do so, he’s highly likely to lose.

Then, even if he doesn’t, Republicans will be howling to pay him back for his betrayal while his supporters will consider him to be an unprincipled mediocrity who doesn’t believe in “anything beyond his title and choice parking spot near the Capitol.”

Given those circumstances, I think it’s very unlikely that Specter will be able to run the gauntlet and get back to the Senate.” — John Hawkins, April 29, 2009

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“…Now, who knows? Maybe Specter will thread the needle. Maybe he won’t get a primary challenge, he’ll win the general after the Republicans have a bloody primary fight, and then in a totally out of character act of charity, the Democrats will allow him to have his seniority….but, the odds will be against him in all three cases — and few people deserve to have the odds against him more than Arlen Specter.” — John Hawkins, May 6

That primary challenge? It appears to be on like a pot of neckbones,

As Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) moves ever closer to challenging five-term Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic primary, he is already being arm-twisted by outsiders. But whether those efforts will carry any weight is not at all clear.

The public mulling of a Senate bid by Sestak – a retired admiral who’s just begun his second term in the House – is giving heartburn to many influential Democrats in Washington and in the Keystone State. Democratic leaders painstakingly worked to recruit Specter, potentially the Democrats’ filibuster-breaking 60th vote in the Senate, under the assumption that the former Republican would be able to coast through his adopted party’s primary on his way to another term.

But Sestak, 57, had been thinking about challenging Specter before the incumbent switched parties, and didn’t go quietly into the night. During a media blitz last week, Sestak repeatedly sent signals that he’s planning a run. Though he said he won’t make his candidacy official until he discusses the bid with his wife and daughter, Sestak told CNN that “I personally have made a decision that I intend to get in this race.”

…Sestak should have the money to make it a competitive race. He began April with more than $3 million in his campaign account, and “he’s a very aggressive fundraiser – so much so he wants you to max out immediately,” said one defense lobbyist.” His brother, Richard, is a key fundraiser for the Congressman. Sestak has also managed to tap into the ranks of liberal, anti-war donors who give relatively small amounts online, sources said.

How would Sestak do in a primary against Specter? My expectation is that he would win. If Sestak runs, the netroots will be all in on his side and understandably, so. Specter is an arrogant, unprincipled creep who doesn’t believe in anything except hanging on to his cushy job. Why would Democrats want him when they’d have a chance to get a real liberal?

Plus, this polling data, courtesy of Open Left, suggests that if Sestak can get his name recognition up, he should be able to beat Specter,

I have obtained a complete copy of the GQP polling memo, commissioned by a labor-funded 527, on the potential Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary. You can read the entire memo here. (15 page PDF). The toplines, showing Specter ahead 55%-34%, have already been reported upon in a number of sources. However, there is a lot more to see than those numbers.

…Sestak already leads among voters who know both candidates: Perhaps the most remarkable number of all in this poll is that Joe Sestak is already leading Arlen Specter among the 30% of voters who know both candidates (p. 4-5):

Among voters that know Sestak (mostly in the Philadelphia inner suburbs) he enjoys an 18 – 4 favorable-unfavorable ratio, and among voters who already identify both candidates, Sestak actually leads Specter in the initial head to head 52 – 44 percent.

If it comes down to a Sestak vs. Specter primary, I’d say put your money on Sestak. He should have the money to compete, the activists will all be in his corner, and it seems unlikely that the Democratic establishment is going to really go all out to help him. In any case, this is good news for the GOP because a primary fight would create bad blood and would be likely to soak up northwards of 10 million dollars on the Democratic side.

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