[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/11/art.getty.arlen.specter.jpg caption="Specter may face a tough primary battle."](CNN) - Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, who has been critical of Sen. Arlen Specter's support for President Obama's stimulus plan, appears to be inching closer to a primary re-match against the Republican incumbent.
"As this disastrous recession worsens, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and national economy," he said in a statement released Monday afternoon. "Unfortunately, the recent extraordinary response of the federal government - more corporate bailouts, unprecedented spending and debt, higher taxes - is likely to make things worse. I think we are on a dangerously wrong path. Pennsylvanians want a US Senator focused on real and sustainable job creation that gets our economy growing again. That is why I am considering becoming a candidate for the US Senate."
In 2004, Specter survived a tough challenge from then-Rep. Toomey, beating him by less than 2 percentage points thanks to support from President Bush and then-Sen. Rick Santorum. Toomey has been hinting at a 2010 Senate bid for months, calling Specter far more vulnerable than he was four years ago, but has not said when he might make an official announcement.
The National Republican Trust PAC has already said it will back primary challengers to any Republican senator who supported the stimulus. Specter was one of three GOP senator's to vote in favor of the proposal - but the only one up for re-election next year.
A survey last month suggested the Pennsylvania senator could be in for a bruising re-election battle. Registered voters in Pennsylvania questioned in a Quinnipiac University poll were split on whether he deserved to be re-elected, with 43 percent saying he did not deserve to hold on to his job to just 40 percent who said he did. And Specter's 55 percent approval rating from members of his own party was 7 points lower than his marks from Pennsylvania Democrats.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele seemed to hint last week that the national party might support primary season challengers if incumbents lacked support from GOP leadership in their own state, though he quickly played down the remarks.
“…It’s just like anything. When the state party says, ‘We’re going to endorse a candidate and support that candidate,’ the RNC is behind them. When the state party says, ‘We have a problem with that candidate,’ so does the RNC,” he said.
In a letter to constituents several weeks ago, Specter acknowledged conservative anger over his stimulus vote.
"My vote was cast recognizing the very substantial political peril that I face," he wrote. "I know that there are many on the Republican political spectrum who do not like the vote. I remember, obviously, the tough primary fight I had in the year 2004. But I felt in the final analysis, given the very severe consequences which might befall the country, that my duty was to look out for the public interest and not my own personal political interest."