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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Gil Cedillo

Gil Cedillo is in free fall. After starting out his campaign to replace Hilda Solis in the House as a co-frontrunner, he has been out-raised, out-endorsed and out-maneuvered by Judy Chu and now he's getting desperate.

Cedillo's latest desperate tactic: his campaign sent out a mailer to voters last week that attempts to smear Chu by claiming a link between her position on the Board of Equalization and the financial crisis.

Below the bolded words "Ever wonder how we got into this mess?" is a picture of Judy surrounded by what look like newspaper quotes and headlines including: "This is an outrage,""Ex-Bear Stearns banker pleads guilty in fraud case," and "Political Malfeasance and the Financial Meltdown." The implication is clear.

The LA Times takes it down:

The language used as headlines on the Cedillo mailers, however, came from articles having nothing to do with Chu. One, "This Is an Outrage!" appeared as a quote in a March 16 Los Angeles Times article about anger over bonuses given to executives of AIG, one of the struggling corporations given federal financial aid. Another, "Political Malfeasance and the Financial Meltdown," ran above a syndicated George Will column March 25 in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

That last one is particularly gauling considering Cedillo here is referencing an oped in which conservative commentator Will attacks 1. the Employee Free Choice Act, falsely claiming it "abolishes" the right to a secret ballot, and 2. the Obama administration for, as he puts it, trying "to stabilize the economy by vastly enlarging government's role in it."

Is this how a real Democrat acts, using a George Will rightwing hit piece to attack a fellow Democrat? Hardly.

Not content to merely mislead and to use a rightwing shill to attack his opponent, Cedillo goes even further in the mailer, attacking Chu for her role as Vice Chair of the Board of Equalization. To hear Cedillo tell it, Chu has given millions in tax breaks to her contributors, but The LA Times provides much needed reality check here as well:

The "tax breaks" cited in Cedillo's mailings are actually refunds of tax overpayments by corporations, according to Board of Equalization records and documentation the Cedillo campaign provided to The Times.

Most, if not all, were routine, noncontroversial matters approved by unanimous vote upon recommendation of the agency's staff, according to Anita Gore, a spokeswoman for the Board of Equalization.

Nice try, Gil.

But that's not the worst part. Look at the mailer closely and you see a repeated phrase used to describe Judy Chu: "tax collector." The Board of Equalization is the state's tax collecting body whose mission is to "serve the public through fair, effective, and efficient tax administration," yet Gil Cedillo hopes to use it as an albatross around Judy's neck, appealing to and reinforcing rightwing frames about taxes and the evil tax collector.

Again, this is not how a real Democrat acts.

There's only one real Democrat in this race, one who will proudly join the progressive caucus in Congress, one who will vote to enact real progressive change in Washington and one who will be a reliable partner with our president in the House against the forces of caution and corporate interests. That Democrat is Judy Chu.

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SCOTUS Pick To Come Within The Week?

According to Politico, Sen. Orrin Hatch expects President Obama to reveal his pick to replace David Souter by the end of the week or over the weekend.

After talking to President Barack Obama on the phone today, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch says he believes the White House will move swiftly on its Supreme Court nominee, perhaps making an announcement by the end of this week.

Obama made no timing commitments to the Utah Republican, but the senator, who has been in the middle of several pitched Supreme Court battles, said: "I'd be surprised if it went beyond this week. ... I would think by the end of this week or over the weekend, he'll nominate somebody. I'm sure they've discussed this internally, back and forth for months now."

The AP has its own version of the story, which focuses instead on Hatch's expectations that the pick would not be out of the mainstream:

President Barack Obama has told a leading Senate Republican he would not nominate a radical or extremist to the Supreme Court. [...]

The Utah Republican said there could be a major Senate fight if Obama "nominates someone contrary to what he told me." But Hatch said he takes the president at his word.

No, Senator, putting radical ideologues on the court is what conservatives do.

It's amazing to me that no matter how many elections these guys lose, no matter how many of their leaders fall from grace and no matter how many examples of the failure of their ideology there are, they still maintain it's the left that's outside the mainstream.

The level of delusion is staggering.

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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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What Ed Said

This New York Times cites several people who have known Barack Obama throughout his career who predict that his choice to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court will likely be "moderate" and "pragmatic" one.

This bit is particularly telling:

Now Mr. Obama is preparing to select his first Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter. In interviews, former colleagues and students say they have a fairly strong sense of the kind of justice he will favor: not a larger-than-life liberal to counter the conservative pyrotechnics of Justice Antonin Scalia, but a careful pragmatist with a limited view of the role of courts.

"His nominee will not create the proverbial shock and awe," said Charles J. Ogletree, a Harvard professor who has known the president since his days as a student.

Mr. Obama believes the court must never get too far ahead of or behind public sentiment, they say. He may have a mandate for change, and Senate confirmation odds in his favor. But he has almost always disappointed those who expected someone in his position -- he was Harvard's first black law review president and one of the few minority members of the University of Chicago's law faculty -- to side consistently with liberals.

I have to say I find it hard to believe that Obama's pick won't be reliably in the liberal camp, I have to say I agree with Ed Schultz who said it very well the other day:

"I think it's time to say it. This is no time for bi-partisanship, we need a liberal on the Supreme Court." [...]

"Will President Obama put a liberal lion on the Supreme Court, and I mean no shame, no apologies. Or will he cave in when the Party of No starts crying about a consensus choice? May I remind Americans tonight, we had a consensus back in November, it was called an election. They lost. Elections have consequences. This is our time to shape the future of this country."

Watch it (h/t Crooks & Liars):

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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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Jack Kemp Has Died Of Cancer

Jack Kemp, Bob Dole's running mate, has died.

Jack Kemp, the ex-quarterback, congressman, one-time vice-presidential nominee and self-described "bleeding-heart conservative," died Saturday. He was 73.

Kemp died after a lengthy illness, according to spokeswoman Bona Park and Edwin J. Feulner, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser. Park said Kemp died at his home in Bethesda, Md., in the Washington suburbs.

Kemp's office announced in January that he had been diagnosed with an unspecified type of cancer. By then, however, the cancer was in an advanced stage and had spread to several organs, Feulner said. He did not know the origin of the cancer.

Condolences and sympathies go out to his family.

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Ben Nelson To Oppose Public Health Care Plan

Not only does Ben Nelson intend to oppose President Obama's public health care plan, which is central to the president's health care reform policy, but he's using stupid right wing talking points to do it.

From The Huffington Post:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Friday that he will oppose legislation that would give people the option of a public health insurance plan. The move puts him on the opposite side of two-thirds of Americans. [...]

Nelson's problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a "deal breaker."

You see, for Republicans and their allies, the corporate Democrats such as Nelson, the very fact that the public plan is cheaper and more efficient and thus more appealing to consumers, means it must be crushed because it represents a threat to the private insurance industry. And really, that's the constituent Nelson is most concerned about.

As Jason Rosenbaum writes over at The HCAN blog:

The company Nelson finds himself in is laid out clearly: business, the insurance industry, and Republicans. Of course, this isn't surprising, considering his campaign donation history. Open Secrets says Nelson received $608,709 from the insurance industry in 2007-2008, making the insurance industry his biggest donor group, more than lawyers and even lobbyists.

And guess what Nelson intends to do to galvanize support in the Senate for his opposition to the public plan? That's right, create a "coalition of like-minded centrists," although how one can argue that opposition to a public plan is a centrist position is a mystery when polling shows clearly that support for a public plan is overwhelmingly popular and hence the mainstream and -- dare I say -- centrist position.

A poll released this week by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that 66 percent of Americans back the creation of a public health plan that would compete with private plans. Nelson, in comments made to CQ, joins the 16 percent of poll respondents who said they oppose the plan.

I imagine once upon a time centrist meant "in the middle" on some perceived left/right spectrum. Now, thanks to shills like Nelson, it's become synonymous with "corporate."

But luckily we have a coalition of our own, a large group of congressional Democrats including 16 Senators ranging from true centrists to liberals who have stated plainly with no ambiguity their support for a public plan:

A new public insurance plan is an essential part of reforming the U.S. healthcare system, 16 Democratic senators declared in a letter to two powerful committee chairmen Wednesday. [...]

"As members of key committees and leaders on health care issues, we write to support a public plan option as a core component of this reform," the letter said. "There is no reason to believe that private insurers alone will meet the public purpose of ensuring coverage for all Americans at affordable prices for taxpayers."

Below is the full list of Senators who signed the letter:

Sen. Sherrod Brown
Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Bob Casey Jr.
Sen. Kirsten GillIbrand
Sen. Tom Harkin
Sen. Daniel Inouye
Sen. Ted Kaufman
Sen. Carl Levin
Sen. Jeff Merkley
Sen. Jack Reed
Sen. Jay Rockefeller
Sen. Charles Schumer
Sen. Debbie Stabenow
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
Sen. Jim Webb
Sen. Bernie Sanders

With such wideranging support as this and a budget resolution that preserves the option to use reconciliation for health care legislation, hopefully Ben Nelson's opposition to the public plan will be next to irrelevant.

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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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President Obama On David Souter And His Coming SCOTUS Decision

President Obama surprised Robert Gibbs by replacing him at the podium a few minutes ago to make a statement himself regarding Justice Souter's decision to step down and what his process will be for choosing a replacement. Here's what he said:

The process of picking someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone that understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or a footnote in a casebook, it is also how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcomed in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time. As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum and it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the court's new term begins.

A couple things to take away from this statement. First is the progressive frame advanced in the statement that justice comes out of empathy. Second is Obama's pledge to seek someone "who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply [constitutional values] in our time." In other words, the president wants someone who sees the constitution as a living breathing organism. All good.

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