Rep. Joe Sestak is close to pulling an upset victory over Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter in the coming Pennsylvania primary election, according to a well-known group of progressives, citing new poll numbers.
Sestak is within 4 percent of pulling ahead of Specter in the May 18 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, the advocacy group Democracy for America (DFA) says in an email to supporters.
“That’s incredible momentum. Only one month ago, Quinnipiac polling showed Sestak down by 21%,” DFA Political Director Charles Chamberlain says in his email. “Joe’s turning it around with an aggressive on-the-air and on-the-ground campaign that’s introducing him to voters outside of his Philadelphia base.”
Sestak is running an insurgent campaign to deny the nomination to Specter, the longtime Keystone State Republican who switched parties last year after polls showed him losing the GOP nomination to former Rep. Pat Toomey. Toomey now is the presumptive Republican nominee who will face off against either Sestak or Specter in November. Specter, 80, has been in the Senate since 1981.
First elected to the House in 2006, Sestak has remained a candidate despite the fact that most Democratic Party leaders — including President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden — have pledged support for Specter after the senator’s party-switch in the spring of 2009. While still a Republican early in 2009, Specter provided a crucial vote for Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus program.
Biden and other Democrats also had been actively coaxing Specter to switch sides.
Progressives, including DFA, have sided with Sestak, a former Navy admiral before entering Congress. DFA was built out of former Vermont governor Howard Dean’s failed 2004 bid for the Democratic nomination for president. Its email touting Sestak’s chances comes with an online appeal to raise money on his behalf.
“You know Arlen Specter from his for 44 years as a Republican campaigning for [Richard] Nixon, [Ronald] Reagan, [George W.] Bush, and [John] McCain,” Chamberlain says. “A year ago, he surveyed public opinion polls and found that the prospects of winning a Republican primary were bleak. So he did exactly what you might expect from a spineless Washington Republican who wants to be re-elected, he switched parties and declared himself a Democrat.
“That’s what he did, but it’s not the way he voted,” Chamberlain adds. “Specter immediately joined every single Republican in voting against President Obama’s budget then told the New York Times that he hoped Republican Norm Coleman would win the disputed Senate race in Minnesota against Al Franken. When pressured why a Democrat would take these positions, Specter quickly admitted, ‘I forgot what team I was on.'”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.