by Todd Beeton, Tue May 05, 2009 at 03:09:45 AM EDT
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.
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.