Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat from suburban Philadelphia, announced he will challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic state primary, a blow that could force Specter to drain precious campaign resources before a general election against a strong Republican candidate.
Sestak made the statement this morning in an interview with a local paper, the Wayne Independent. Specter, who defected to the Democratic Party earlier this year, has been promised support from President Barack Obama. But he’s been isolated in many committees by his new party, and has provoked anger among his former Republican based.
A former Navy Admiral, Sestak was elected in 2006, defeating longtime Republican incumbent Curt Weldon.
This will mean a serious fight inside the Democratic Party. Specter left the GOP after polls showed he was headed for a certain GOP primary defeat at the hands of former GOP Congressman Pat Toomey, who narrowly lost to Specter in the 2004 Republican primary, the American Spectator points out.
While Specter has the support of President Obama, his longtime friend Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Ed Rendell, Rendell is term-limited and will be replaced himself in 2010.
But all that establishment support for Specter may backfire, the Christian Science Monitor pointed out Wednesday. Pennsylvanians don’t like being dictated to, and polls now show that they’re not sure about Specter. 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.
Specter also leads Sestak among Democratic primary voters 33 percent to 13 percent, but 48 percent undecided. No incumbent senator wants half his state on the fence about him, however early in the election cycle, the Monitor concluded.
“Republicans deserted him en masse, Democrats don’t quite trust him, and independents worry about what he stands for,” Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall poll, told the Monitor.
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