Obama-Backed Specter Drops in Polls Ahead of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Primary

May 17, 2010 - 5:38 AM
With the election just days away, the candidates in Pennsylvania's too-close-to-call Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate jockeyed Sunday to project confidence and control and prove who will be the stronger man against the Republicans in the fall.
Joe Sestak

Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., a candidate in the Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary, attends a campaign rally in Media, Pa., on Sunday, May 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Media, Pa. (AP) - With the election just days away, the candidates in Pennsylvania's too-close-to-call Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate jockeyed Sunday to project confidence and control and prove who will be the stronger man against the Republicans in the fall.
 
At a rally on the Delaware County courthouse steps in his congressional district, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak was introduced by his brother as the "next U.S. senator from the great state of Pennsylvania."
 
Sestak said his opponent, five-term incumbent Arlen Specter, will be red meat in the fall for Republicans who feel betrayed after Specter switched parties last year to mount his first Senate campaign as a Democrat. Democrats are not passionate about Specter and independents do not trust Specter after he switched parties a year ago, Sestak said.
 
"We can't have a dead man walking," Sestak told reporters after the rally attended by dozens of supporters.
 
Specter, a longtime moderate who often fought with GOP leaders during his 28 years as a Republican senator, is endorsed by President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO, and says he has voted with Democrats more often on the big issues than Republicans.
Arlen Specter

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., at a campaign stop outside Doc's Union Pub in Philadelphia on Sunday, May 16, 2010. Specter is in a close race in Tuesday's Democratic primary with Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Earlier in the day, Specter appeared at a raucous union rally at Doc's Union Pub in South Philadelphia and told campaign shirt-wearing union members that he believes a strong get-out-the-vote effort will carry him to victory.
 
He said he beat Pat Toomey -- the likely Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who narrowly lost to Specter in the 2004 GOP primary -- and that he can beat him again.
 
"You've seen my confidence and you've seen my strong voice, and you've seen how labor is turning out on getting out the vote," Specter said.
 
Of Sestak, he said, "he looks pretty nervous to me."
 
The nationally watched election is Tuesday, and polls show a tight race -- a stunning development after Specter held a double-digit lead just a few weeks ago. Both men have been crisscrossing the state in recent days, and more appearances are planned for Monday.
 
Sestak has attacked Specter as the "poster child" of what's wrong with Washington, D.C., saying politicians care more about their jobs than those of Americans. He also has tried to tie the recession to Specter's votes for the GOP's economic policies, including banking deregulation, the Iraq war and the 2001 tax cut that most Democrats derided as a giveaway to the rich.
 
Specter has highlighted his seniority and ability to work the levers of power in the federal government, such as reversing a decision last year that would have eliminated some federal funding of a school lunch program in Philadelphia.
 
Specter also raised the issue of gun rights in an online ad that highlights an "F" rating that Sestak once received from the National Rifle Association.
 
Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, has co-sponsored legislation to extend the now-expired federal ban on the sale of assault weapons, saying he does not believe that police should face the same weaponry on America's streets that U.S. soldiers do in Iraq.
 
The ban expired in 2004. Specter was still a Republican when he voted against adding a 10-year extension of the ban to legislation immunizing the gun industry from lawsuits arising from gun crimes. The amendment failed, although 41 of 47 Democrats voted for it.
 
Some of Specter's biggest supporters -- Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter -- are proponents of the ban, but Specter said Sunday that he has always focused his efforts on dealing with criminals, not weapons. Specter, the former district attorney of Philadelphia, would not elaborate.