Specter loses lead week before primary
Foe uses Kagan vote against him
By David Eldridge
Since switching parties in 2009, Sen. Arlen Specter seemed to hold all the keys to winning his first Democratic Party nomination: the blessing of President Obama and Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, financial support from his new team and a commanding lead in polls.
But one week before next Tuesday's primary, two polls show Rep. Joe Sestak opening a lead on Mr. Specter, who once had the support of more than 50 percent of Democratic voters.
Also, on Monday, Mr. Specter found himself defending his vote last year against Elena Kagan's confirmation to solicitor general as President Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Sestak said he expects Mr. Specter "may backtrack from his earlier vote on Ms. Kagan this week in order to help himself in the upcoming primary election, but the people of Pennsylvania have no way of knowing where he will stand after May 18."
In response, Mr. Specter scrambled to frame his previous opposition.
"I voted against her for solicitor general because she wouldn't answer basic questions about her standards for handling that job," he said in a statement.
"It is a distinctly different position than that of a Supreme Court justice. I have an open mind about her nomination and hope she will address important questions related to her position on matters such as executive power, warrantless wiretapping, a woman's right to choose, voting rights and congressional power."
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone poll of likely Democratic primary voters has Mr. Sestak up 47 percent to 42 percent, with 8 percent undecided. Mr. Sestak is holding a similar margin in a Muhlenberg College/Morning Call tracking poll.
Is Mr. Specter, 80, about to join Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida and Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah as the latest victim of 2010's backlash against "moderate" candidates? In February, the five-term Republican senator held a 51 percent to 36 percent lead over Mr. Sestak.
Mr. Sestak, a two-term congressman and a former admiral running as "the real Democrat," has steadily closed the gap and last week edged into the lead for the first time.
The 58-year-old former vice admiral, who plowed into the race without the support of the state or national Democratic Party establishment, seems to be running a more nimble campaign.