Sen. Arlen Specter recently switched to the Democratic side of the aisle from the Republican because he feared he'd lose a primary contest vs. conservative Pat Toomey, a former congressman who almost beat Specter in the 2004 primary.
Now there’s a chance Specter will face a far greater threat, should he make it to the general election: moderate former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge.
That's because Ridge, possibly the most accomplished Republican in the state, is thinking about running against Specter next year, several knowledgeable sources tell The Washington Post.
Ridge spent eight years as governor, 10 years in the House, and was President Bush’s first Homeland Security secretary (2003-05). Ridge’s name was floated as a possible vice presidential candidate for John McCain.
Toomey has committed to run whether Ridge enters the race or not. So it’s not a sure thing Ridge would win the nomination if he runs. But polls indicate Ridge would have a far better chance of beating Specter than Toomey would.
But Ridge could have just as tough a time running against Toomey in the Republican primary as Specter did. The state's conservative Republican base, which is not endeared to Ridge because of support for abortion rights, dominates the primary. That base scuttled any chance Ridge had in being selected as John McCain's running mate last year in the presidential election.
A new survey by Quinnipiac University shows Specter with only a 3 percentage point lead over Ridge, but a whopping 20 point advantage over Toomey.
Although Specter is favored to win the Democratic primary, he may face competition from Rep. Joe Sestak. The congressman was strongly considering a bid before Specter switched sides and has blasted him since then.
Specter’s seat is particularly important, because, assuming that Democrat Al Franken takes office as Minnesota’s second senator, Democrats would hold 60 seats in the chamber. That’s just enough to thwart Republican filibusters.
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