PA-Sen: Joe Sestak Sounds More Like He's Getting In Every Day

After meeting with Joe Sestak on Monday, SEIU President Andy Stern tweeted the following a few minutes ago:

Sestak is serious about Senate race. Doing Senate Finance Roundtable today on health care.

Sestak's own words to Greg Sargent following the meeting certainly seem to back up this assessment:

"I cannot see the unions across the board supporting Specter if he cannot support EFCA," Sestak said in an interview with me a few moments ago. "[Stern] let it be known that it's very much on the top of their agenda."

Sestak cautioned that Stern didn't directly address the 2010 primary. But he said the meeting went "great," strongly suggesting that SEIU is seriously considering supporting him or another primary challenger to Specter. "It was very clear that there were a number of issues we agree on," Sestak said of his much-anticipated meeting with Stern.

Sestak also confirmed that he'd almost certainly get in the race if Specter doesn't show a major ideological change of heart. "If he doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in," Sestak said.

This is much stronger language than Sestak has used previously and, as Chris Bowers observes, it virtually assures a Sestak challenge considering how defiant Specter has been in recent interviews in terms of his unwillingness to shift left to conform to his new partisan designation. But ironically, while Specter's stubbornness makes Sestak's entrance into the race more likely, Sestak's challenge will itself make Specter shifting left more likely.

Bowers again:

It is a tough call for Sestak, but at the very least he is doing progressives a service by keeping his threat of a primary challenge so open and public. If Specter actually is going to start acting like a more reliable Democrat, there is a much better chance that he will do so with the sword of Sestak hanging over his head, then with the primary path cleared for him. As he revealed in his partisan switch, Specter clearly wavers when under threat of defeat.

Which makes Sestak's entrance into the race a win win for us when it comes to making a stronger more Democratic Senate.

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PA-Sen: Specter Weak In The General

A new Quinnipiac University poll gets a bit ahead of itself by not even entertaining the notion that Arlen Specter will be challenged for the Democratic nomination. Hopefully, Joe Sestak will have something to say about that in the coming months but in the meantime, here's a sort of baseline post-switch poll by which to gauge the race moving forward and it's really not great news for Specter.

According to the poll, Specter predictably beats Pat Toomey by a large margin and is statistically tied against former governor Tom Ridge, who is reportedly mulling jumping in to the Republican primary, but look at Specter's numbers here:

Specter 53
Toomey 33

Specter 46
Ridge 43

Barely above 50% against Toomey? Really? That's pathetic. And if Ridge gets in the race, Specter's share of all voting groups goes down including, significantly, Independents and Democrats.

Independent voters, who back Sen. Specter over Toomey 45 - 36 percent, switch to Ridge 47 - 37 percent if he becomes a candidate. The former Republican Governor also gets 14 percent of the Democratic vote, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

With Specter as the nominee, there will be little case to be made that he would be a better Senator than Ridge as both are considered moderates except, of course, that one of them has revealed himself to be a sell-out for political expediency while the other has not. If Arlen Sepcter is challenged for the Democratic nomination, whatever candidate emerges will have had to prove his Democratic bona fides and thus stake out a position more clearly to the left of Ridge. Any Democrat can beat Toomey but as long as a Ridge candidacy is possible, it's even more important that there is a contested Democratic primary next year.

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PA-Sen: On Meet The Press Arlen Specter Promises To Be A Very Bad Democrat

In his zeal to convince the world that his party switch was somehow premised upon principle rather than political opportunism, Arlen Specter today on Meet The Press went out of his way to assure us all just what a bad Democrat he intends to be. During one exchange, he boasted once again of his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, essentially saying "I bucked the Republican Party when I was a Republican and I'll buck the Democratic Party as a Democrat." Ahh, sweet oh so virtuous independence, Lieberman and Bloomberg would be proud. At another point in the interview, Specter went even further, denying reports that he'd told President Obama that he would be a "loyal Democrat."

Via Think Progress:

GREGORY: It was reported this week that when you met with the president, you said, "I will be a loyal democrat. I support your agenda." Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda, and that's health care. Would you support health care reform that puts up a government run public plan to compete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company?

SPECTER: No. And you misquote me, David. I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass health care with 51 votes, which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose closure on key issues. ...I did not say I am a loyal Democrat.

Wow, so opposition to EFCA, opposition to a public health care option, opposition to President Obama's budget...nope, no signs of being a loyal Democrat here. In fact, I think it's pretty clear that he will be a consistent stumbling block to President Obama's agenda, at least that's what he's promising to be. Which begs the question, how exactly did that conversation with the president go? If Specter didn't tell Obama he'll be a loyal Democrat, did President Obama really tell Specter that he'd campaign for him in the primary? Obviously the president owes Specter for his support of the stimulus package but at this point, how can President Obama actually campaign for someone who intends to block key elements of his agenda against someone who intends to support it? He wouldn't have done so prior to Tuesday but now that Specter has a D next to his name, suddenly he's eligible for presidential support? That doesn't sound like transcending partisanship to me.

Today on Meet The Press, Arlen Specter made an even stronger case for a contested primary than any Democrat yet has. After an appearance like this, any Dem who tries to clear the field or talk about Specter running unopposed (ahem, Gov. Rendell...) should be a laughing stock. Also, any Democratic committee that supports Specter before the primary plays out would lose all contributions from me not to mention any credibility as a fierce supporter of the Democratic agenda. Which is why the President can not and must not campaign for Specter in this primary.

In my unscientific poll on Friday, 100% of you said Joe Sestak should run for Senate against Specter. After today's MTP, my guess is that he's more likely to do so rather than less. Bring it on, Joe.

Video of Specter on MTP this morning is below:

Update [2009-5-3 15:15:17 by Todd Beeton]:This is promising. Andy Stern tweeted this earlier today:

Congressman Sestak impressive on CNN. Visiting him tomorrow.

Momentum for a contested Democratic primary builds.

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PA-Sen: Joe Sestak For Senate?

Today on Hardball, Joe Sestak sure made it sound like he's still seriously considering a run in the Democratic Senate primary against Arlen Specter.

Note Chris's outrage at the idea that the field would be cleared by anyone other than the voters. I've gone on record in support of a strong Democratic challenger to Specter for just that reason among others. What do you all think? Take the poll over the jump.

Update [2009-5-1 21:18:33 by Todd Beeton]:Also, Senate Guru has a good update on the state of the race:

Pennsylvania: Senator Bob Casey Jr. has gotten in line behind the Democratic establishment's orders and endorsed Arlen Specter for re-election. State Representative Bill Kortz has joined Joe Torsella in saying that he is continuing his pursuit of the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 regardless of Specter's status. Meanwhile, the NRSC reveals their fear of a Senate candidacy by Congressman Joe Sestak as they follow up their anti-Specter robocall with an anti-Sestak & vaguely pro-Specter robocall. This stunt may only prove to water down any coherent Republican message (and may further encourage a Sestak candidacy). Elsewhere, the labor community continues to put pressure on Specter. Also, a new blog, Specter Watch, has popped up to apparently focus on Democratic alternatives to Specter.

Head on over to his place for links.

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Pushing Specter

Last night I saw Mike Lux speak at our local Drinking Liberally to promote his book The Progressive Revolution. Lux had the crowd rapt with examples of how the progressive movement throughout history has successfully pushed our often resistant leadership toward justice and equality. His call to action: now it is our job to push Obama and Congressional Democrats for without us, the unique potential that exists at this point in time for a "big change moment" will be lost.

I asked Mike what he thought about the Arlen Specter switch and he said he thought it was mostly a good thing, that he's likely to be with us 20 to 25% more often than he was when he was in the Republican caucus, but that we've got to keep the pressure on and the best way to do that is not letting him run unopposed in the primary. I completely agree.

Along those lines, I'm glad to see that Joe Sestak is not going away. Rather, he went on MSNBC today and reiterated his concern about what Specter is going to be for as a Democrat implying that if he's a bad Democrat, he should be challenged.

Watch it:

Also, today Andy Stern sent out a memo to SEIU's Pennsylvania members taking a much harder stand on Specter than his initial statement of support for Specter's switch did on Tuesday. Stern writes that while he applauds Specter's move...

...SEIU has always been an organization that supports candidates and elected officials based on their commitment to working families, not their party labels.

The issues that face working people in Pennsylvania have not changed, and the support we need from our representatives in Congress hasn't changed, either.

We know there have been contradictory and confusing reports about what Senator Specter's decision means for the priorities of working families in our state. In a word: our fight for Employee Free Choice and quality, affordable healthcare continues, as strong as ever.

He goes on to say that SEIU will continue to put pressure on Specter on EFCA through phone calls, letters and protests until...

...Sen. Specter supports the principles of the Employee Free Choice Act: allowing workers, not employers, to choose how and when to form a union; enforcing real penalties for employers who break the law; and ensuring that those who've chosen a union can actually secure a contract.


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