August 9th, 2009
02:38 PM ET
12 years ago

SOTU: I’m ready to battle Sestak ‘toe to toe,’ says Specter

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A recent poll had bad news for Sen. Specter's re-election bid."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrats are headed for a tough primary fight in Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday, telling CNN he was ready to go “toe to toe” with primary opponent Rep. Joe Sestak.

Specter said Sestak was wrong to question the Republican-turned-Democratic incumbent’s allegiance to his new party, adding that his voting record had always leaned Democratic. “President Obama thinks that my principles and values are right in line with his, which is why he's backing me, and Joe Biden and Ed Rendell,” he told CNN’s John King on “State of the Union.”

Related: Specter's polling edge evaporates

“When Congressman Sestak starts to throw stones, he lives in a big glass house. The guy has the worst voting record in the Congress from the Pennsylvania delegation. He's missed 104 votes this year. He talks about his military record. If he was still in the service, he would be a court martial, and he's been AWOL, absent without leave.

“Now, I don't want to get involved in brickbats, and I'd rather talk about the issues, but if Congressman Sestak wants to go negative, I'm prepared to battle him toe to toe.”

A recent Quinnipiac poll suggested the Pennsylvania senator maintains a significant lead over Sestak, although his advantage over likely Republican opponent Pat Toomey has all but vanished. Specter downplayed the survey. “There's only one poll that counts. And I've been in a lot of elections and a lot of primaries, and I didn't ask the president to clear the field,” he said. “I'm prepared to take on all comers. And I think that when the final tallies are in, I feel confident.”

While many of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are holding the line against a government-run health care option, Specter said he wasn’t among them — and he didn’t think the idea was dead yet.

“I believe that a public option would be very helpful, but it's true that are there are many who don't agree with that,” he said. “And there is exploration on an idea of a co-op advanced by Senator Kent Conrad. You have to remember this, John. We do not yet have a bill. It has not been formalized. Sen. Schumer came out several weeks ago with the idea that the public option ought to maintain a level playing field. And I think when we see the specifics, we may well find sufficient votes. All of that has yet to be determined when we really get down to brass tacks and see the details.”

Specter — who received a tough reception at a recent Philadelphia-area health care town hall with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius — dismissed the impact of recent tumult at the events.

“There's no doubt that the boos and catcalls were orchestrated, but there were many people there who wanted to talk about health care, and I didn't take the boos personally,” he said. “Listen, in a democracy, you can be orchestrated. It's just unfortunate that so much time was spent away from the issues, but in my line of work, you have to be prepared for whatever comes.”

Filed under: Arlen Specter • State of the Union
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. No Hillary = No Obama

    Talk about addictions! That's the problem with these members of congress – they are all addicted to power and no wonder they would fight toe to toe – they don't care about their constituents, they care about themselves.

    August 9, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  2. Specter, you're a loser.....

    you have no seniority anymore and at your age are the equivalent of a junior senator.....time for you to move on and let youth have its place....

    August 9, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. St Harrison

    Left Pa. for the military in 78. I see not much have changed political wise. Once a Republican, claims the "moral" side of you and party difference have seen you now a Democrat. You are the example what Americans will be calling for in the future, Term Limits. Everyone see's through you and personal ambitions while you are not seeing You Work For Us!! Do yourself a favor and not run and go home. As of this moment your capacity to properly represent your voters in is in much doubt. Your changing of parties should have awaken the people of Pa. you are incompetent to fulfill there needs and desires. As for me, born and raised in Philadelphia now in San Antonio Texas, I will from this distance to inform and send you to a happy retirement. When WIP laughs at you, it's time to pack it up. And take Pelosi, Reid, etc with you.

    August 9, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. Dan

    It is interesting that when there is a group of voters who disagree with the political establishment, they are discounted as having been orchestrated to disagree.
    Trust me when I say:
    ."I disagree with the political establishment's view on government-run health care. I do not want the government running my health care program. I do not want my taxes paying for the health care of people who will not work and those who have come to this country illegally."
    To Senator Spector, the CNN news staff, and any other senator or representative, please let me know if you want my opinion directly because the media and the rest of you in DC are not listening to what the populace is saying – No to government health care and no to using my tax dollars to pay for illegal aliens and those who aren't willing to work.

    August 9, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. carlos, the smarter one

    way to go Sen. Specter, we or most of us latinos have your back and the money to support you.....

    August 9, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. Barry NiFong, Hawaii

    Arlen, you looked pretty pathetic at the town hall meeting. I don't think you could win against a dog.

    August 9, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. maurice from ontario

    Attaway, Arlen! Don't let the naysayers sabotage the truth.

    August 9, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. Deep Throat

    If Sen. Specter has the confidence of the president, why didn't
    Obama clear the playing field for Arlen the same way he cleared
    it for Sen. Hillenbrand in New York? Could it be Specter lacks
    the clout with Obama the way she does? Tell us,Arlen.

    August 9, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. Vincent

    Specter is a reliable Democrat... as long as he has a primary challenger. The day after he wins (if he does), he'll go back to voting whichever he he really wants to. Of course, we have no idea what Specter really is, other than an opportunist who loves being a Senator. I don't trust him to vote with the Dems, and I'd rather have a good Democrat than an unreliable egomaniac like Specter.

    August 9, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Chad Haanen

    Mr Spector,

    If yuo are looking to prove youreself to the Democratic party, now is your chance. The Democratic Senatoral caucuss is full of cowards that are not even willing to talk about a public care. The senate needs a leader to voice and say "hey our colleges in the House are talking about this, the president is talking about this, and the whole nation is talking about this. It's about time we come to the table and talk about this as well." Do you think yuo can be that person Senator Spector?

    August 9, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. 60's survivor

    orchestrated boos and catcalls. I hope that legislation for the good of this country are not defeated because of all the misleading noise that tends to cover the truth. TRUTH is not to be tampered with

    August 9, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. howie

    Arlen, it is time to move on, enjoy yourself in retirement.

    August 9, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  13. MomofFour

    Arlen Specter is going to be kicked to the curb so fast he won't know what hit him. This guy...if the conservatives got popular all the sudden he would change parties again just to stay in power. What a total weazel. This is a perfect example of why we need term limits in congress and the senate. If we got rid of the politicians who have been stagnating government for so many years we might be able to get some change in Washington.

    August 9, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. They call me "Tater Salad"

    More back and forth bickering..................How productive!

    August 9, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |