Specter’s Tough Reelect

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Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is facing a tough primary in 2010. Remember all those new Democrats Barack Obama’s campaign registered in the Keystone State? Well, 160,000 of them were Republicans that switched their registration – a huge chunk of Specter’s base. The moderate Republican squeaked through a 2004 primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey – now the head of the fiscal conservative group Club for Growth by just 17,000 votes. Toomey, who is general considered a poor general election candidate in this blue-trending state, is looking for a rematch in 2010. On the Democratic side no front runner has leaped out. MSNBC’s Chris Mathews has said he won’t run and Gov. Ed Rendell, who’d be a shoe-in, doesn’t look to be gearing up for a run. Neither does Rep. Joe Sestak, a popular former Navy admiral. Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Patrick Murphy have been mentioned as potential candidates, amongst others.

Pennsylvania primaries are closed – limited to card-carrying party loyalists – which is why Specter has left the door open to running as an Independent. After his surprising and pivotal break with his party to vote for Obama’s stimulus plan, retirement rumors swirled on Capitol Hill. Specter is 79 and last year survived a second bout with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. But Specter’s abrupt announcement that he would not support the union-friendly Employee Free Choice Act and other moves to the right would seem to indicate that he is running for reelection. Odds are low that he’ll win the primary, but Specter’s political obituary has been written many times and he has always, thus far, prevailed.