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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Pennsylvania

Two More Incumbents On Chopping Block

Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are entering the last few days before their May 18 primaries wondering whether they will be the next two incumbents ousted before the general election.

West Virginia Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan and Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett were both rejected by their own party in the last several days, and their results have put incumbents on both sides of the aisle on notice.

Pennsylvania Arlen Specter.jpg

Both Lincoln and Specter are on shaky ground, but Specter's prospects look somewhat more perilous. In a slip of the tongue that's symbolic of his issues in the primary, the longtime GOP senator called the Allegheny Democratic Committee that endorsed him "Allegheny County Republicans," and repeated the stumble again before concluding his Tuesday night speech to the group.

His primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, continues to remind Democratic voters -- whom polls once showed siding with Specter by large margins -- that this is the same Specter that George W. Bush and conservative former Sen. Rick Santorum endorsed six years ago in his competitive Republican primary.

Since Sestak went on the air with TV ads in recent weeks, his standing among primary voters has vastly improved and he finds himself dead even with Specter in the polls. A Franklin and Marshall College Poll out Wednesday found that support for Specter is soft, so a gaffe like the one on Tuesday could help Sestak persuade voters he's the only true Democrat.

Continue reading "Two More Incumbents On Chopping Block" »

Rendell: Specter Wins Primary "By Double Digits"

Pennsylvania's top Democrat predicts that Sen. Arlen Specter will ultimately win the primary election in two weeks, having proven to be a reliable vote for the party in the year since switching from the Republican side.

In an interview with Real Clear Politics, Gov. Ed Rendell did hedge a bit by saying in what is likely to be a low-turnout affair that "anything can happen," but that Specter is "likely to win by double digits" in the race against Rep. Joe Sestak (D).

"He's done a good job politically, he's also done a good job on issues," Rendell said. "[For] a lot of us here in Pennsylvania, the stimulus is viewed -- certainly among Democrats -- very well. I think a lot of us here feel indebted to him for the stimulus, and supporting the president."

And Sestak, he says, "made a huge mistake" tactically by holding much of his warchest in reserve until the final weeks of the campaign, launching his first television advertising just last month.

"He's not going to lose by 20 points now. But I just think that it's tough to build enthusiasm in three and a half weeks," he said.

In another closely-watched contest, Rendell thinks Democrat Mark Critz can still win the special election for John Murtha's Congressional seat, even as national handicappers say the Republican now has an advantage.

Continue reading "Rendell: Specter Wins Primary "By Double Digits"" »

Primary Fight Looms One Year After Specter Switch

One year ago, just shy of President Obama's 100th day in office, Sen. Arlen Specter jolted the political world by announcing his decision to leave the Republican Party and join the majority caucus.

"I am unwilling to have my 29 year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," the five-term senator said in the statement announcing his decision. "I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania."

It was a decision based largely on political survival, with the final straw being his decision to break with the GOP and vote for the new president's Recovery Act. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated him in 2004, looked ready to give him an even tougher challenge in 2010, and Specter lacked the institutional support that put him over the edge in their last dogfight.

The switch gave Democrats a 59th vote in the Senate, with a 60th expected to come soon after when Al Franken's victory was certified. At the time, it was seen as another sign of the GOP's extended demise. "How much more can the Republicans take?" the Washington Post's Dan Balz asked, while declaring the party "demoralized, shrinking and seemingly lacking an agenda beyond the word 'no.'"

Continue reading "Primary Fight Looms One Year After Specter Switch" »

2010: Why Pennsylvania Is The Most Competitive State

A year ago many considered Pat Toomey too conservative to be a viable contender for the Senate in Pennsylvania, one of the most culturally and geographically diverse states in the country. But with a changing national political climate that is mirrored in the Keystone State, Toomey's chances of knocking off the state's incumbent senator look increasingly more likely.

A Franklin and Marshall College Poll released last week found Toomey leading Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter by 4 points. After five terms as senator, 34 years since his first bid for statewide office, last year's switch from the Republican to Democratic Party and a primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), Specter's Senate seat is up for grabs.

In the state that President Obama carried by a 10-point margin, Toomey's lead in the polls is just one piece of evidence that Pennsylvania is likely the most competitive state in the country:

Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell is term-limited and -- seven weeks before the May 18 primary -- the race to replace him is a toss-up; nine of the 19 congressional districts could be competitive; two of the only GOP districts nationwide that Democrats hope to pick up are in Pennsylvania; and the special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) will likely take on national significance as a key indicator for the November elections.

"Pennsylvania has a history of swinging back and forth from Republican to Democrat, Democrat to Republican in statewide races," said Robb Austin, a Pennsylvania political consultant and former state representative.

Continue reading "2010: Why Pennsylvania Is The Most Competitive State" »

PA Sen Poll: 30% Support For Specter

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) is now polling at 30% against former congressman Pat Toomey (R) in a general election matchup and against Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary, according to a new Franklin & Marshall survey (Jan. 18-24, 993 RV, MoE +/- 3.1%). While Toomey and Sestak remain largely unknown to the statewide electorate, Specter, running for his sixth term, has just a 35% favorable rating, and 34% think he's doing a good job as senator.

Democratic Primary
Specter 30
Sestak 13
Und 50

Specter leads Sestak by 20.3 points in the RCP Average

General Election
Toomey is tied with Specter among registered voters but jumps out to a significant lead among those considered likely to vote in November:
Registered Voters
Toomey 30
Specter 30
Und 35

Likely Voters
Toomey 45
Specter 31

Toomey leads by 7.7 points in the RCP Average

We see the same dynamic in a Toomey vs. Sestak match up:
Registered Voters
Toomey 28
Sestak 16
Und 51

Likely Voters
Toomey 41
Sestak 19
Und 37

Toomey leads Sestak by 11.7 points in the RCP Average

Meanwhile, the governor's race is still up in the air, as seven-in-10 Democrats and Republicans don't know yet who they will vote for in the May 18 primary. However, with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) now out of the race, Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) is expected to win the GOP primary.

Dan Onorato 10
Jack Wagner 4
Chris Doherty 4
Joe Hoeffel 4
Tom Knox 2
Other 4
Undecided 72

Tom Corbett 23
Sam Rohrer 5
Other 3
Undecided 69

PA Sen Poll: Specter Widens Gap Over Sestak

Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched parties on the eve of President Obama's 100th day in office, maintains a strong lead over Democratic primary foe Joe Sestak in a new Rasmussen poll (421 LVs, 1/18, MoE +/- 5%) released on this one-year anniversary of Obama's taking office.

Primary Election Matchup
Specter 53 (+5 vs. last poll, 12/8)
Sestak 32 (-3)
Und 11 (-3)

On the topic of health care reform, Rasmussen finds this interesting nugget inside the poll:

While Sestak opted to challenge Specter from the political left, arguing that he was the "real" Democrat in the race, 70% of those who Strongly Favor the health care plan support Specter, while 56% who Strongly Oppose it support his opponent.

Favorable Ratings (Democrats Only)
Specter 67 / 31
Sestak 54 / 24

Specter had a 16 point lead over Sestak in the RCP Average prior to this poll's release.

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PA Sen Poll: Specter, Toomey Remain Deadlocked

A new Quinnipiac survey (1,381 RVs, 12/8-14, MoE +/- 2.6%) shows that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) has surpassed the critical 50 percent threshold in his first Democratic primary race, but remains in a tough race in the general election fight against Republican Pat Toomey.

Primary Election Matchup
Specter 53 (+9 vs. last poll, 10/1)
Sestak 30 (+5)
Und 15 (-13)

General Election Matchups
Specter 44 (+2)
Toomey 44 (+1)
Und 11 (-2)

Toomey 40 (+2)
Sestak 35 (unch)
Und 22 (-3)

Toomey maintains a small edge over Specter in the RCP Average.

Specter's job approval rating has ticked upward to 47 percent, from 44 percent in October, while 45 percent disapprove, down from 48 percent. President Obama's approval rating holds steady at 49 percent, though his disapproval rating jumped from 42 to 45 percent. More than 70 percent of voters say Obama's support for Specter has no impact on their preference in the Senate race.

Favorable Ratings
Specter 43 / 45
Toomey 35 / 10
Sestak 20 / 9

PA Senate Poll: Sestak Slipping

Pat Toomey's (R) numbers are on the rise and Joe Sestak's (D) numbers are falling in a new Pennsylvania Senate poll conducted by Rasmussen (1,200 LVs, 12/8, MoE +/- 3%). Toomey now leads both potential Democratic foes in the 2010 contest.

General Election Matchups
Toomey 46 (+1 vs. last poll, 10/13)
Specter 42 (+2)
Und 9 (-1)

Toomey 44 (+7)
Sestak 38 (unch)
Und 13 (-6)

Democratic Primary Election Matchup
Specter 48 (+2)
Sestak 35 (-7)
Und 14 (+4)

The primary sample of 442 likely Democratic voters has a margin of error of +/- 5%. Specter led Sestak by 16 in the previous RCP Average.

On health care, 44 percent support the Congressional plan while 53 percent oppose it. On the public option, 42 percent say they support creating one while 39 percent oppose. Sixty-two percent of Democratic primary voters support the public option.

PA Sen Poll: Specter's Numbers Continue Downward Trend

It has not been a good year for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), whose numbers take a real hit in the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll (529 RVs, 10/20-25, +/- 4.3 percent).

His favorable rating is just 28 percent, down from 48 percent in March, while his unfavorable rating is now up to 46 percent, nearly double the March rating. Only 23 percent say he should be re-elected, while 66 percent say it's time for a change. Specter's job approval rating is just 29 percent, while 64 percent disapprove. Meanwhile, he continues to slip in both primary and general election matchups.

Primary Election Matchup
Specter 37 (-7 vs. last poll, 8/25-31)
Sestak 18 (+7)
Und 47 (+1)

General Election Matchups
Specter 33 (-4)
Toomey 31 (+2)
Und 30 (+5)

Toomey 28 (+2)
Sestak 20 (-2)
Und 48 (+2)

President Obama's job approval rating has also slipped, from 47 percent in August to 40 percent now; 59 percent disapprove.

Democrats have a 4-point advantage in the generic Congressional ballot, 37-34 percent. After the jump, check out matchups for the gubernatorial race.

Continue reading "PA Sen Poll: Specter's Numbers Continue Downward Trend" »

Biden: Specter's Stimulus Role Saved U.S. From Depression

Arlen Specter's vote for the stimulus bill proved to be one of his final acts as a member of the Republican Party. But at a fundraiser for the Pennsylvania senator tonight, Vice President Joe Biden said it was more significant than that.

"Without Arlen having convinced two of his Republican colleagues to change their vote and vote for the stimulus package, we would probably be in a depression," he said in Pittsburgh tonight. "The fact of the matter is we would not be about to even begin the kind of recovery that we are about (to begin), that we want, were it not for the fact that Arlen Specter put his career on the line. I owe him. The country owes him."

Specter returned praise, calling his former colleague "the most influential and powerful vice president in our history." He also dwelled on the stimulus vote, calling it the most important of the 10,000 he's cast in his decades in the Senate.

"When I cast that vote, I in effect joined the President Obama team," he said.

Biden joined Specter at the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's annual Kennedy Lawrence Dinner. He also spoke at a separate fundraiser specifically for Specter, who faces both a potentially tough primary and general election challenge in 2010.

Poll: 'Staggering' Numbers For Specter

A new Susquehanna poll finds that only 31% of Pennsylvania voters think Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) deserves to be re-elected, a "staggering" and "near fatal" number according to pollster Jim Lee (Oct. 7-12, 700 Rv, MoE +/- 3.7%). That's down from 38 points in February, prior to Specter's switch from the Republican Party. Among Democrats, 45% say it's time for someone else to represent the state in the Senate instead of the five-term senator

Specter still leads his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), by 28 points, but is running even with his general election opponent, former Rep. Pat Toomey (R).

Specter 44
Sestak 16
Und 22

Specter leads by 20.2 points in the RCP Average in the Democratic Primary

Specter 42
Toomey 41
Und 12

Specter leads by 0.2 of a point in the RCP Average for the General Election

In the gubernatorial election, in which term-limited Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) is barred from running, Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) leads Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) by 36% to 13% margin in the GOP primary, with 50% undecided. The Democratic primary was not tested.

Toomey Raises $1.5M In 3rdQ

The campaign for Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey (R) announced this morning it raised more than $1.5 million in the 3rd fundraising quarter of the year. The campaign also stated it has now raised more than "$3.1 million from over 20,000 contributors" in the last five and a half months, and already has "33 percent more contributors than the total number of donors amassed during the entirety of his 2004 Senate run."

Toomey, then a congressman, challenged Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in the 2004 GOP primary, losing by just 2 points. It was his challenge again this year that prompted Specter to switch parties, though Specter still faces a credible primary challenger in Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

Specter and Sestak have yet to announce their 3rd quarter fundraising hauls.

PA Sen Poll: It's a Race

Just one point still separates Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) and his Republican challenger for re-election Pat Toomey, the former congressman and Club for Growth head. Both find themselves leading Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), according to a Quinnipiac poll released today (Sept. 22-28, 1100 RV, MoE +/- 3%).

Specter's margin over Sestak in the primary has dropped 13 points since the July 22 poll, while Toomey's small lead over Sestak in the general election is practically unchanged.

More than half of voters still haven't heard of Toomey, while 70% don't know Sestak. Specter, who has a 90% name ID, is viewed favorably by 42% and unfavorably by 46% -- his first upside down favorable rating in at least a year.

Dem Primary
Specter 44
Sestak 25
Und 28

Specter leads by 18.2 points in the RCP Average

General Election
Toomey 43
Specter 42
Und 13

Toomey and Specter are tied in the RCP Average

Toomey 38
Sestak 35
Und 25

Toomey leads by 3.5 points in the RCP Average

"Toomey and Specter are neck and neck in what could be a 13-month horse race," said Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown. "The challenger's ability to close the 53 - 33 percent gap in Quinnipiac University's May 4 poll is evidence that the longtime senator's decision to switch parties to avoid a potential loss to Toomey in a GOP primary may not be the magic bullet for reelection that he had hoped it would be."

Obama: Specter 'Even Better Senator' As Democrat

President Obama followed through on his pledge to support the newly-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in his re-election bid, saying he's consistently put the interests of Pennsylvanians ahead of any particular ideology during his time in Washington.

"He was a great senator when he was a Republican; he's going to be a even better senator now that he's a Democrat," Obama told supporters at a Philadelphia fundraiser that was attended by most of the state Democratic establishment. "That's why you are all going to work just as hard as you can to make sure that he gets reelected and is continuing to help me move this country forward."

Obama praised Specter's "decisive" vote on the Recovery Act, a vote that preceded his party switch.

"At the time, this was not an easy vote for Arlen to take. You can imagine the pressure he was under from the other side," Obama said. "But Arlen knew that it was more important to answer to the people who sent him to Washington than to the party he belonged to. That's why you should send him back to Washington for six more years -- because you know he's going to fight for you regardless of what the politics are."

Noting his cancer battle, Obama said the health care fight is also not about politics, but was personal. "This is a man who has seen the health care system up close -- the good and the bad. This is a man who courageously battled cancer, and is here today because he was able to receive some of the best health care available in the world -- and also because he's a tough son of a gun," he said.

Specter expected to raise more than $2 million at the event, which would help build a warchest already over $7 million. He raised $1.7 million in the most recent fundraising quarter, but has had to return donations he received before his party switch.

Santorum: More Open To Challenging Obama In 2012

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said that because President Obama has failed to deliver on his campaign promises, Republicans, including him, have more reason to consider a presidential run in 2012.

"The dynamic has changed," Santorum said on an RNC conference call today (listen here) intended to rebut Obama's visit to the Keystone State. "I think a lot of folks who may not have thought about running against an incumbent president -- who certainly came in with very very high ratings and had the potential ... to be a very successful president -- [have] seen his ratings fall because of his inability to deliver."

There's a "different atmosphere" now, he argued, which has more people eager to "confront this presidency," which is "injurious to America." He pointed to the tea party demonstrations as evidence of this growing movement.

Still, he put his presidential flirtation into perspective.

"It's something that I think I would consider," said Santorum, who lost his re-election bid in 2006. "I went from not considering at all to saying I would at least consider it. That's as far as I'm willing to go three and a half years out."

Continue reading "Santorum: More Open To Challenging Obama In 2012" »

Specter Leads New Franklin & Marshall Poll

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is facing challenges from both parties as he runs for a sixth term, this time as a Democrat. His challengers, Rep. Joe Sestak (D) and former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), are teaming up in an effort to oust the senator -- last night they met in Allentown for a joint health care forum, then shared a beer together.

Both candidates still have their work cut out for them, according to a new Franklin & Marshall College Poll (Aug. 25-31, 562 RV, MoE +/- 4.1%). Specter leads Sestak by 26 points in the Democratic primary and Toomey by 8 points in a general election matchup.

Dem Primary
Specter 37 (+4 vs. last poll, June)
Sestak 11 (-2)
Und 46 (-2)

General Election
Specter 37 (+8 vs. last poll, April)
Toomey 29 (+3)
Und 25 (-9)

Toomey 26
Sestak 22
Und 46

They're both also still unknown to most voters -- 73% said they hadn't heard enough about Sestak to have an opinion about him, and 63% said the same about Toomey. As for Specter, who's been in the Senate since 1980, 35% hold a favorable opinion of him and 42% an unfavorable opinion. These numbers are up a few points since June.

One potential hiccup for Specter is the down economy. Just 33% feel Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction, while 59% say it's on the wrong track -- numbers like these can cause the electorate to go for a change in the ballot box. Also, President Obama's job approval rating is down to 47% from 55% in June.

Sestak, Toomey To Hold Joint Town Hall

An interesting announcement from Pennsylvania: Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak -- each seeking the U.S. Senate seat now held by Arlen Specter -- will hold a joint town hall meeting on health care next week. Here's the announcement from Toomey's camp:

After a number of exchanges on health care reform, U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey will be participating in a joint town hall meeting next week with Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak.  Pat is eager to welcome Joe to his hometown of Allentown and has invited to take Joe out for a beer following the meeting.   The event will be held on September 2, 2009 at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

An interesting gambit, one wonders what Specter's camp thinks of it.

PA Sen Poll: Better News for Specter

A Rasmussen poll released earlier this week found Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) trailing Republican Pat Toomey by 12 points -- Toomey's first lead. A new survey from DailyKos/Research 2000, however, finds Specter back in the lead by 5 points (Aug 10-12, 600 LV, MoE +/- 4%). He also leads by 15 points in the Dem primary against Rep. Joe Sestak -- who leads Toomey by 1 point in a general election matchup.

Specter's 52% favorability rating is 15 points higher than both Sestak and Toomey, and 9 points higher than the Rasmussen survey found. Against Toomey, Specter wins 43% of independents, 3 points more than Toomey.

Dem Primary
Specter 48
Sestak 33
Und 19

General Election
Specter 45
Toomey 40
Und 15

Sestak 42
Toomey 41
Und 17

Specter leads Sestak by 20.0 points in the RCP Average for the Dem Primary. Toomey leads Specter by 2.0 points and Sestak by 3.7 points in the RCP Averages for the General Election.

PA Sen Poll: Toomey Takes the Lead

A lot can change in just a couple months, and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) knows this all too well. The five-term senator, who's been a Democrat for four months, switched parties in April after realizing he would lose to Pat Toomey (R) in a GOP primary. However, Specter now trails the former congressman by double digits in a Rasmussen general election poll.

Toomey 48 (+9 vs. last poll, June)
Specter 36 (-14)

Specter's unfavorable rating is up to 54% from 43% in June, and much of voters' distaste appears to be due to his support for a congressional health care reform bill -- which 53% of Pennsylvanians oppose. Of those who like the bill, 70% favor Specter to 9% for Toomey; those who oppose it favor Toomey 82%-9%.

Rasmussen released a primary survey yesterday, finding Specter's lead over second-term Rep. Joe Sestak (D) down to 13 points.

In the general election survey, Toomey led Sestak 43% to 35%, with 18% undecided.

Toomey Campaign Statement on Dems

With Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) making his Senate bid official today, Republican Pat Toomey's campaign offers a 'welcoming' statement that takes its biggest shot at incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.):

"We welcome Joe Sestak to the race. Pennsylvania Democrats will make an important choice between Joe Sestak, a consistent liberal who really believes in his values, and Arlen Specter, a career political opportunist who believes in nothing but his own reelection. "Regardless of the decision they make, in next November's general election, Pennsylvanians will face a clear choice between one candidate, Sestak or Specter, who supports unprecedented Washington spending, bailouts of Wall Street banks and car companies, and government control of health care decisions; and Pat Toomey, who would bring some much needed political balance and fiscal restraint to Washington."

PA Sen Poll: Specter, Toomey Tied

Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) sizeable lead over GOP challenger Pat Toomey has been erased and a plurality of voters now say he does not deserve to be re-elected, a new Quinnipiac survey finds (July 14-19, 1173 RV, MoE +/- 2.9%).

Specter's 20-point lead in early May and 9-point lead in late May has dwindled to 1 point, as he leads the former congressman 45%-44%. Voters are split on his approval rating, with 47% approving and 46% disapproving -- his highest disapproval rating ever. Voters also split 45%-44% on whether they have a favorable opinion of him.

Specter now leads Toomey by 7.0 points in the RCP Pennsylvania Senate Average.

"Voters see Sen. Specter much less favorably than they once did and are net negative about giving him a sixth term in the U.S. Senate," said Peter A. Brown, Quinnipiac's assistant director. Independent voters have shifted narrowly to Toomey 46 - 42 percent and say 53 - 35 percent that Specter does not deserve reelection."

Good news for Specter, though, is that he crushes his Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, a second-term congressman from Philadelphia. Specter leads 55%-23%, with 19% undecided. However, 69% of voters said they haven't heard enough about Sestak to form an opinion of him.

Toomey appears to have no trouble in the Republican primary, as he leads Peg Luksik 47%-6%. In other potential general election matchups, Specter leads Luksik 47%-40%, and Toomey tops Sestak 39%-35%.

NRSC Endorses Toomey

The National Republican Senatorial Committee endorsed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey today, three months after he announced his bid and 10 months before the GOP primary -- though he's facing no major challenger at the moment.

The NRSC initially considered the former congressman too conservative to win statewide, though clearly changed its mind. The campaign committee received heat earlier this year for endorsing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist so early in a primary race against the more-conservative Marco Rubio. At that time, the NRSC said it endorsed so early because Crist best fits the state.

Here is the full statement from NRSC Chairman John Cornyn:

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Toomey Announces 3rd Cong. Endorsement

Senate candidate Pat Toomey (R) announced today his third endorsement by a Pennsylvania congressman. Prior to Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) party switch, elected Republicans had been reluctant to back the former congressman who left his job as president of Club for Growth to challenge Specter.

Rep. Bill Shuster's (R) endorsement of Toomey follows that of GOP Reps. Joe Pitts and Charlie Dent.

"I am honored by Bill's endorsement," said Toomey. "We served together for four years in the U.S. Congress, where I witnessed firsthand Bill's commitment to Pennsylvania taxpayers and his support for fiscally responsible policies. Pennsylvanians can be proud to call Bill their representative."

PA Sen Poll: Specter Numbers Plummet

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's popularity has taken quite a hit since becoming a Democrat in late April, a new Franklin & Marshall poll finds. The number of Pennsylvanians who support his re-election has dropped by double digits since the college last polled voters in March.

Specter Re-election
Deserves re-election: 28 (-12 from March)
Time for change 57 (+11)
Undecided 15 (+1)

His job approval rating has fallen somewhat. But the percentage of voters who view him favorably has dropped more significantly.

Specter Job Approval: 38/59 (42/54 in March)

Fav/Unfav Rating
Specter 31/37 (down from 48/24 in March)
Rendell 42/40 (was 45/35)
Casey 32/17 (34/16)
Obama 56/27 (was 59/21)

Broken down by party, Specter's support has not surprisingly fallen most among Republicans (18, down from 49). But it has also dropped among Democrats (46, down from 57) and independents (33, down from 36).

Only one-third of Democrats supports Specter for the party's nomination in 2010, while almost half were undecided, suggesting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) has an opening.

Democratic Primary Election Matchup
Specter 33
Sestak 13
Other 6
Undecided 48

The telephone survey of 580 adults was conducted June 16-21, and had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

PA Sen Poll: Toomey Trails Two Dems

Former Pennsylvania congressman Pat Toomey (R) trails both Sen. Arlen Specter (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in potential 2010 Senate matchups, according to a new Rasmussen poll. The automated survey of 500 likely voters was conducted June 16.

Toomey trails the five-term senator by 11 points (50%-39%) and the Philadelphia-area congressman by 6 points (41%-35%). Half of voters hold a favorable opinion of Toomey, while 35 percent view him unfavorably -- Specter has a 53%/43% rating. More than a quarter of voters don't know enough about Sestak to form an opinion of him, while 42% view him favorably and 32% unfavorably.

A Rasmussen poll released yesterday found Specter, who recently switched parties, leading Sestak in the Democratic primary 51%-32%.

The results of both surveys offer a mixed bag for Specter. While he leads both challengers despite switching parties in an admittedly neck-saving maneuver, he never polls above 51% -- which seems incredibly low for someone who's been in the Senate since 1981 and puts him in the range of vulnerability.

PA Sen Poll: Specter Leads Toomey, Sestak

A Quinnipiac poll released this morning finds Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) leading Republican Pat Toomey by 9 points and potential intra-party challenger Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) by 29 points (May 20-26, 1191 RV, +/- 2.8%).

Sestak said yesterday that he intends to challenge Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party one month ago today. Forty-six percent hold a favorable opinion of Specter, while 61% don't know enough about Toomey to have any opinion of him.

"Sen. Arlen Specter's numbers have slipped since the controversy that followed his switch to the Democratic Party, but he's still better off than he would have been if he stayed a Republican and faced a tough primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

For the GOP nomination, Toomey leads Rep. Jim Gerlach and Peg Luksik by a wide margin.

General Election
Specter 46 (-7 vs. last poll, May 4)
Toomey 37 (+4)
Und 14 (+4)

Sestak 37
Toomey 35
Und 23

Dem Primary
Specter 50
Sestak 21
Und 27

GOP Primary
Toomey 38
Gerlach 10
Luksik 3
Und 47

Sestak Says He'll Likely Challenge Specter

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), after weeks of saying he was considering a challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary next year, today announced he'll likely get in the race.

Sestak, a Navy Admiral first elected to the House in 2006, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer a short time ago that he's motivated to run because while Specter has "done some good things in the past," he's not sure he can be counted on to advance President Obama's agenda in the future.

"I don't think that a 'D' next to your name makes you a Democrat," he said.

Sestak specifically referred to health care as a driving issue, saying Specter derailed reform efforts in the '90s.

"Maybe he's changed. But I'm not sure we can take that chance," he said. "We have to ask the question, will he be with the right policies that our president presently has put out there. ... There's too much doubt in my mind not to have the intent right now to get in this race."

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Toomey: Nominee Deserves Fair Shot

While taking a quick shot at Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who has already indicated his approval of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination for the Supreme Court, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey offered a tempered reaction to President Obama's nominee.

"For the past twenty years, the Supreme Court confirmation process has very regrettably become a political football. Arlen Specter has played those political games more aggressively than most, arguing against Judge Bork and for Justice Thomas, depending on Specter's calculation of his own political needs. That approach is bad for our country. Just as it was wrong for liberal Democrats to adopt a knee-jerk opposition to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, it would be equally wrong for Republicans to oppose Judge Sotomayor on a partisan basis. Judge Sotomayor deserves a fair hearing. If that hearing proves her to be of sound judicial temperament with the requisite knowledge of and respect for the Constitution, then she should be confirmed."

In his statement, Toomey argues against voting on Supreme Court nominees based on ideology -- as has been recent tradition. A correspondent for Polics Daily reminds us that the Senate confirmation process changed in the mid- to late-1980s -- when Joe Biden took over the reins of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ridge Won't Run For Senate; Says GOP "Facing Challenges"

First Read has a statement from the former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security Secretary taking him out of contention.

Tom Ridge says he is grateful for the support and encouragement he received, but that he decided against the race. He says, however, that his career in public service is not over. "There are causes to which I remain intensely committed, including my work on behalf of the disability community, our nation's veterans, our national security and the GOP -- the party I enthusiastically joined more than four decades ago."

In the long explanation, Ridge speaks about the state of the GOP, saying: "To those who believe that the Republican Party is facing challenges; they are right." But he adds: "To those who believe the Democratic Party is without its own difficulties, they are wrong. No one party has a monopoly on all of the answers."

He says he hopes to play a role in helping the Republicans "craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace."

Full statement after the jump:

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Will Quinnipiac Poll Influence Ridge?

A Quinnipiac poll released this morning (April 29-May 3, 1120 RV, MoE +/- 2.9%) finds Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, now a Democrat, drubbing former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the Senate race, while leading former Gov. Tom Ridge (R) by just 3 points.

The survey found Ridge winning over some of the independent voters Specter would take against the conservative Toomey. Will the poll influence Ridge to take on Toomey, whose conservative record made him a favorite over Specter in the primary but now place him as a decided underdog in the general election?

As Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said: "Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money."

That has to worry Pennsylvania Republicans, who perhaps wanted a senator more reliably-conservative than Specter but, should they nominate Toomey, would likely see six more years of him.

Roll Call reported this weekend that Ridge is indeed considering a bid, despite previous statements that he would not run. With numbers like these, the poll could easily tip the scale toward running.

The results of the survey:

Gen Elec..Tot/Rep/Dem/Ind/Men/Wom/Union HsHolds
Specter...46 / 10 / 78 / 37 / 41 / 51 / 57
Ridge.......43 / 82 / 14 / 47 / 50 / 37 / 34

Gen Elec..Tot/Rep/Dem/Ind/Men/Wom/Union HsHolds
Specter...53 / 18 / 85 / 45 / 47 / 59 / 62
Toomey...33 / 74 / 4 / 36 / 41 / 26 / 27

Obama's "Full Support" For Specter Includes Political Backing

In 2004, some feel that Arlen Specter pulled off a primary against the more conservative Pat Toomey because of the strong support of then-President Bush (not to mention then-Sen. Rick Santorum). It appears that six years later, Specter can once again look forward to presidential backing as he seeks a sixth term, this time as a Democrat.

White House press secretary, when asked today if President Obama wouldn't rather see a stronger Democrat holding the Senate seat, simply repeated the message that Obama delivered personally to Specter, that he has his full support. Asked later whether that pledge included political backing, Gibbs confirmed that it did.

"If the president is asked to raise money for Senator Specter, he will. If the president is asked to campaign for Senator Specter, we'll do that too," Gibbs said.

Specter's path to renomination is no clearer on the Democratic side than it was on the Republican side. But given the high-profile lobbying that had gone on to push Specter to switch, it's likely that the Philadelphian can count on Democratic heavyweights like Gov. Ed Rendell and Vice President Biden sticking in his corner -- for now.

"Full support means full support," Gibbs said when asked if Obama would support him in a primary.

Specter: 'I Will Not Be An Automatic 60th Vote'

Sen. Arlen Specter, now a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said at an afternoon press conference at the Capitol that after traveling around his state and looking at public polls, he decided he could not win the Republican primary and did not want that "jury" to decide his political fate.

"I'm not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Republican primary electorate," Specter said.

The five-term lawmaker also attempted to knock down implications that he would give Democrats 60 votes in the Senate on every bill, provided Al Franken be seated after a prolonged Senate battle in Minnesota. Specter has long been known for his independence -- frustrating both parties.

"I will not be an automatic 60th vote," said Specter, who pointed to his recent opposition to the Card Check bill.

While Specter will likely have to win a Democratic primary, he said President Obama told him this morning during a phone call that he would come to Pennsylvania to campaign for him next year.

PA Sen: Torsella Will Still Seek Dem Nod

Joe Torsella, a former deputy mayor of Philadelphia and former leader of the National Constitution Center, issued a statement today indicating he will remain in the race for the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic nomination. Torsella remains the only Democrat who has announced his candidacy, except for Sen. Arlen Specter -- who announced his party switch and intentions to run as a Democrat today.

"I decided to run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania for one simple reason: I believe we need new leadership, new ideas, and new approaches in Washington. It's become obvious that the old ways of doing business might have worked for the special interests, but they haven't worked for the rest of us," Torsella said.

"Nothing about today's news regarding Senator Specter changes that, or my intention to run for the Democratic nomination to the Senate in 2010 - an election that is still a full year away."

Obama: Welcome To The (D) Team


The White House has released this photo of President Obama speaking with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) earlier today.

"He said he was thrilled to welcome him to the party, and told him he has his full support," a White House spokesperson said.

Specter's party switch potentially represents a political win for Democrats as the new president prepares to mark his 100th day in office. In 2001, Sen. Jim Jeffords (VT) switched parties in late May. The White House wouldn't say yet whether the president used his conversation to seek specific commitments from Specter on upcoming legislation.

Arlen Specter Switches Parties

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a five-term senator facing a tough Republican primary battle next year, announced today that he will officially switch parties in the Senate and run as a Democrat next year.

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said in a statement. "Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

Specter's decision would give Democrats 60 members in the Senate, assuming Al Franken is eventually seated after a prolonged election in Minnesota. Whether Democrats can count on Specter for every vote, though, is another story. He said in his statement today that he would not be a "party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans."

Specter is described this way in the most recent edition of The Almanac of American Politics: "He is respected by colleagues and constituents, though not always well-liked. He sides with conservatives on some divisive issues, with liberals on others, building up no permanent credit with either."

Vice President Biden, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) had been lobbying Specter to switch parties, as had other Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Specter now avoids a potentially career-ending primary and fares far better against Pat Toomey in a general election, as conservative Republican primary voters would likely choose his more-conservative challenger. Toomey came within 2 points of defeating Specter in a 2004 Senate primary, and he left his day job as head of the Club for Growth to challenge Specter again. Recent polls showed Specter trailing Toomey by significant margins.

Republican prospects in the state were already unsteady, as President Obama won Pennsylvania by 11 points in November. John Cornyn (R-Texas), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote a letter earlier this month in support of Specter and said he "is our best bet to keep this Senate seat in the GOP column."

"My job as head of the NRSC is to guide the GOP back to a majority in the Senate," Cornyn wrote. "I can't do that without Arlen Specter."

UPDATE: Below are released statements from Reid and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

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PA Sen Poll: Specter Down 21

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (R) finds himself down 21 points to former Rep. Pat Toomey in a potential 2010 Republican primary, according to a new Rasmussen poll. Specter now has a 42%/55% favorability rating, while Toomey enjoys a 66%/19% rating.

Toomey 51
Specter 30
Someone else 9
Und 10

Toomey lost to Specter by a slim margin in the 2004 Senate primary, but in an on-camera interview with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Salena Zito, Toomey said things are different this time.

"It's a very different race," Toomey said. "I think the press has figured out that this time the outcome is going to be different."

"Let me assure you, I wasn't waiting around to do this. I had no intention of running again," he said. "And then all of a sudden I saw our federal government doing things that I never thought was possible."

Toomey Steps Down at Club for Growth

The anti-tax Club for Growth announced today that former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) is taking over as president, as Pat Toomey steps down from his post to "pursue other opportunities."

A Club for Growth press release described Chocola as "a staunch defender of the American taxpayer, fighting for the limited-government, free-market principles that are the foundation for economic growth in this country."

In 2006, Chocola was defeated for re-election to Congress by Joe Donnelly, whom Chocola had beaten in 2004. Chocola had a conservative voting record in the House, where he represented the northern-Indiana 2nd District for two terms.

Toomey is expected to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) for a second straight election. After coming up just short of knocking Specter out in the 2004 GOP primary, poor polling numbers for Specter indicate he is again vulnerable.

"I wish Pat the best of luck on his new path and am confident that he will be successful in whatever he does," Chocola said.

Specter Running On Electability

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), already running ads for a primary that's more than a year away, appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today and shed some light on what his main argument will be against Club for Growth president Pat Toomey: electability.

"If Mr. Toomey is the nominee, you can be sure he'll lose," Specter said. "He's to the right of Rick Santorum. Santorum lost by 18 points, spent $31 million and was a two-term incumbent. And if Toomey is the nominee, there will be 60 Democrats. ... If there's a Democrat in my place, they'll be able to do anything they want."

In 2006, Santorum outspent now-Sen. Bob Casey (D) by millions of dollars and still lost by 18 points. Democrats have also picked up five House seats from Pennsylvania since the 2006 election, and President Obama won what was supposed to be a battleground state by 11 points.

Asked whether he is paying for crossing party lines on bills such as the economic stimulus package, Specter said: "I know I am. Mr. Toomey was going to run for governor. When I voted for the stimulus, he saw an opening and has come into the Senate race.

"Had a very tough race with him last time, but it's a different year. It's a different year for him because of his background -- a Wall Street trader; was in the House of Representatives for six years, fought against deregulation... When you take a look at his record, he's been contributive to the problem. And now he wants a promotion; he wants a bonus like those AIG guys."

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) appeared on "Morning Joe" shortly after Specter and noted the importance of the seat. "Hopefully he and Mr. Toomey don't cut each other up because we're going to need to hold on to Pennsylvania," said Cornyn.

Toomey Responds To Specter Moves

Potential Pennsylvania Senate challenger Pat Toomey, president of Club for Growth and a former Republican congressman, responded today to Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) TV ad and request for Toomey to disclose any contributors to his conservative group that had received TARP funds. analyzed Specter's ad last week and noted that it "misfires a few times." As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, Specter was forced to change the wording of the ad -- it accused Toomey of selling credit default swaps, though such swaps had not yet been invented when Toomey worked on Wall Street during the 1980s.

Specter also sent a letter requesting the Club for Growth "disclose any contributors that had received federal funds under the controversial financial bailout legislation enacted in October," the Post-Gazette reported. A Toomey press release responds to the request, claiming "Specter has taken more money from AIG, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase and other financial services companies than any other Pennsylvania member of congress in the last twenty years (Center for Responsive Politics)."

Toomey spokesman Mark Harris responds in a press release:

"Arlen Specter's bad poll numbers must be causing him hallucinations. Everything he attacks Pat Toomey with is either proven false by neutral analysts, or is something Specter himself has done. There isn't enough mud left in Pennsylvania for Specter to cover up the fact that he voted to spend billions of tax dollars to bail out Wall Street. He has pocketed millions from Wall Street firms, while Pat Toomey strongly opposes these bailouts."

On Lobbying Arlen Specter ...

There's a bit of a stir today over comments this weekend by Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) about his efforts to get Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to switch parties, efforts he added that include Vice President Biden. Today, the Vice President's office said it won't comment on Biden's private conversations.

Forget about private conversations -- just look at his public comments. Two weeks ago, Rendell and Biden playfully teased Specter over his party status at a stimulus-related event in Philadelphia.

"You could make life a little easier for yourself by taking that registration card of yours and making that little change from R to D," Rendell told Specter, according to a pool report. Specter later joked that the praise from Democrats at the event made him feel like he was hearing his own eulogy.

"When Gov. Rendell talks about a change of registration," Specter began at one point, before being interrupted by Biden. "Don't make your decision now," the VP said. Another report quoted Biden as saying flat-out: "Why don't you just go ahead and be a Democrat?"

Biden has been full of praise for Specter, who played a key role in passing the stimulus plan and was a colleague of his for 28 years in the Senate. On Friday, when Biden began introducing members of Congress at an Amtrak event, he started with Specter before acknowledging his Democratic colleagues, and called him "one of my closest friends, period."

"I want to thank Arlen Specter for his leadership on matters relating to Amtrak, and a lot of other things," he said.

Toomey For Senate, On Again?

Club for Growth President Pat Toomey released a statement this afternoon indicating that he is once again considering a run for Senate in Pennsylvania:

"As this disastrous recession worsens, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and national economy. Unfortunately, the recent extraordinary response of the federal government -- more corporate bailouts, unprecedented spending and debt, higher taxes -- is likely to make things worse. I think we are on a dangerously wrong path. Pennsylvanians want a US Senator focused on real and sustainable job creation that gets our economy growing again. That is why I am considering becoming a candidate for the US Senate."

Toomey, a former Pennsylvania congressman from 1998-2004, announced in January that he would not challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) again in 2010. Toomey left the House to challenge Specter in the 2004 Republican primary, but lost by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin.

Specter's Cancer Returns

As his state becomes the central battleground in the race for the White House, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has a larger battle to fight, his office announced yesterday. In a statement, Specter's staff said he had been diagnosed with an early recurrence of Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer the five-term incumbent who first beat the disease after being diagnosed in 2005.

A routine follow-up scan and biopsy showed cancer had returned to Specter's chest, but a biopsy on his bone marrow was negative, a positive sign that the disease has not spread. Specter will undergo chemotherapy for twelve weeks and will continue to perform his official duties, his office reports.

Meanwhile, Specter's doctor at the University of Pennsylvania says the one-time survivor has a good chance of doing so again. "Senator Specter has an excellent chance of again achieving a complete remission of his Hodgkin's disease. Senator Specter's early diagnosis of his recurrent Hodgkin's disease has a five- year survival rate of 60 percent," Penn oncologist John Glick said in the statement.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Specter is in great shape for his age, especially given his penchant for frequent games of squash. The former chairman, he now serves as ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, and holds positions as the second-ranking Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee and as the third-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, behind Senators Ted Stevens and Thad Cochran.

Given his history of voting more with Democrats than his Republican colleagues do, it's little wonder that Specter has often found himself the target of difficult battles for re-election. After losing several primary battles in Pennsylvania, Specter escaped the 1980 GOP primary by just three points and won his initial election with only 50%. Since then, Specter has won re-election with more than 60% jut once, in 1998, and six years later came within 17,000 votes of losing in a primary to then-Rep. Pat Toomey, a conservative who now runs the Club for Growth.

At 78 years old, Specter has said he plans to run again in 2010. Democrats have been on a winning streak in Pennsylvania lately, picking off Specter's fellow Republican Senator Rick Santorum in 2006 and winning four House seats from Republican incumbents, as well as control of the state House, though by just one vote. But Specter has his niche, and barring a run from Governor Ed Rendell, who will be term-limited out of work in 2010, he should be relatively safe. That prospect, though Democrats would love it, looks unlikely.

Through the end of 2007, Specter had more than $4.1 million in the bank, and regardless of who comes after him, Specter has a good chance of winning re-election if he does indeed decide on running for a sixth term.