The Race of the Energizer Bunnies

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Somedays doesn’t it just seem politics no longer scrapes the bottom of the barrel? That’s long gone now the campaign masters seem to pick up the barrel and use the crawly things underneath it to smear their opposition.

But that may change this year if the state’s Democrats choose the right guy to be their standard bearer in the race for the Pennsylvania Senate seat held by Arlen Specter. Specter’s calculated run to the Democratic Party hasn’t been widely accepted in the rank and file. While the Republicans have pretty much cleared the way for former Congressman Pat Toomey, Senator Specter is not going to lie back and allow his rival to take the nomination from him but he’s going to get a run for his money from Delaware County Congressman Joe Sestak.

The liberal Sestak is a retired Navy Admiral with a Doctorate in international economics. He routed incumbent Congressman Curt Weldon four years ago. Weldon and his camp threw everything they could at him, including the accusation that Sestak wasn’t loyal to Pennsylvania when he took his young daughter to a Baltimore hopital for treatment of cancer. See what I mean by underneath the barrel?

But just plain Joe is one energizer bunny of campaigning. Just like that annoying TV rabbit he beats his drum constantly with an easy connect with people despite his extraordinary credentials.

The other seemingly battery powered constant is former Congressman Pat Toomey. Toomey’s conservative credentials are crystal clear and rock hard. One of six children of a union worker Toomey worked his way through Harvard University. After successfully starting a chain of restaurants he went on to serve three terms in Congress. There he earned big marks from organizations like Citizens Against Government Waste and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His stint at the pro-business Club for Growth allowed him to build a formidable network all over this state. Six years ago he came within a whisker of beating Arlen Specter in the Republican Primary. He is the reason Specter switched parties. Undoubtedly he’ll apply that same energy to any campaign against either Specter or Sestak.

Sestak and Toomey already have had one debate sans Arlen Specter. It was a classic, policy oriented discussion. Not the in your face type of browbeating that backfired on John McCain when he was on stage with Obama. A Sestak-Toomey race will be a hard fought contrast between the best of American values but it’s highly unlikely to turn into the kind of slime fest we’ve seen advance to high art in the last two decades.

Now it’s up to the Democrats. Toomey v. Specter, Toomey wins. Sestak v. Toomey and it’s too close to call but if it works out that way Pennsylvanians are in for a classic match up.

Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit education foundation with offices in Harrisburg and King Of Prussia. Somedays is syndicated to leading newspapers and radio stations through out Pennsylvania.