The Pennsylvania Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, which pits cranky incumbent Arlen Specter against cranky challenger Joe Sestak, has divided key players in the party coalition, with labor unions and women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights lining up on both sides of the fight. So be it. That’s the whole point of a primary.
No doubt, Sestak is running a more energetic and appealing campaign.
And he is certainly benefiting from the fact that Specter sometimes forgets he is now a Democrat, as the party-switching senator recently confirmed when he accepted an important endorsement. "I thank the Allegheny Republican Committee for endorsing me for the Democratic nomination … great pleasure to be endorsed by the Allegheny County Republicans and together we’ll win for victory, for a better state, for a better nation," the senator chirped.
Unfortunately, it was the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, not the Republican one.
As someone who wrote for some years about politics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I can tell you that such missteps are noted.
Sestak quicker on his feet. But the congressman’s over-the-top support for the occupation of Afghanistan offers a reminder of the extent to which he really does not "get it."
While President Obama is backing Specter—in what can best be described as payback for the senator’s party switch—it is Sestak who usually goes off the deep end when it comes to positioning himself as handmaiden for the White House.
Specter, irrascible as ever, accepts the president’s endorsement and then raises objections about Obama’s foreign and domestic policies—many of them apt.
The wrangling about who is going to be the better backer of the White House came to a head when Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the seat Justice John Paul Stevens will leave on the Supreme Court bench.
Sestak made a big deal about the fact that Specter had voted against confirming Kagan to serve as Solicitor General.
In a particularly snarky statement released after Kagan was nominated, Sestak grumbled: “My opponent, Sen. Specter, has already made his views about the president’s nominee clear by voting against her confirmation to be solicitor general, even as seven of his fellow Republicans approved her nomination,” Sestak said in a statement. “I expect Sen. Specter may backtrack from his earlier vote on Ms. Kagan this week in order to help himself in the upcoming primary election, but the people of Pennsylvania have no way of knowing where he will stand after May 18.”
The intimation was that Sestak would just jump on board the Kagan bandwagon, no questions asked, while Specter could not be relied upon to rubberstamp it.
To his credit, Specter did not backtrack.
“There is no doubt that Elena Kagan has exemplary academic and professional credentials. And she has been a pioneer for women, serving as the country’s first female Solicitor General and as the first woman to be Dean of Harvard Law School. I applaud the President for nominating someone who has a varied and diverse background outside the circuit court of appeals.