The five-term senator from Pennsylvania faces dipping polls and now, a Democratic primary contender in Rep. Joe Sestak.
Gene J. Puskar/AP
Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania has all but formally announced his candidacy for Senator Specter’s seat, regularly telling interviewers he’s running. On Wednesday, Congressman Sestak told the Wayne County, Penn., newspaper, The Wayne Independent: “I am going to get into the race against Arlen Specter.”
Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, could undercut Specter from two directions – appealing to conservatives with his military background while appealing to progressives with his support for President Obama’s domestic agenda. For Mr. Obama, the pressure on Specter from the left could be a godsend during these next critical months, when the president will need every Democratic vote. Just days after Specter switched parties, he said on “Meet the Press:” “I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat.”
Does Sestak have a chance? Specter is a five-term senator, a seasoned campaigner, and a survivor. Time and again, he has delivered for his state. He has beat back fierce opponents before, as well as serious illness. He also has the backing of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), and the state’s other senator, Bob Casey (D).
But all that establishment support for Specter may backfire. Pennsylvanians don't like being dictated to, and polls now show that they're not sure about Specter. In March, before Specter’s April 28 party switch, his job approval rating was 52 percent, according to the Franklin & Marshall College poll. By June it had dropped to 34 percent.