May 16th, 2010
01:35 PM ET
11 years ago

'I had a clear shot at re-election,' Specter says

(CNN) - Just days before he stands before Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary voters, Sen. Arlen Specter, a former Republican, sought to cast his party switch of a year ago as a matter of principle rather than self-interested politics.

Related: Sestak slams Specter as 'poster child' for what's wrong with Washington

“For years, I've tried to moderate the Republican Party,” Specter, a five-term incumbent, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “And when the stimulus came up and President Obama asked me for his support - for my support, and it looked like we were sliding into a 1929 depression, I sided with President Obama.

“It wasn't my job to be saved. It was the jobs of thousands of Pennsylvanians and Americans.

“Look here, I had a clear shot at re-election. If I had stayed with the obstructionist Republican caucus, I would have been re-elected easily, especially in an out-year when the party out of power is favored.”

Specter added that he was at odds with the GOP because of his vote in favor of President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package.

Asked by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley about the anti-incumbent mood in the country with midterm elections six months away, Specter championed his record of ideological independence during his three decades in the Senate.

“Candy, that's the national attitude. But I have fought the bickering and the partisanship in Washington. I have been one guy who has been willing to cross party lines.

“Look here, in my tenure in the Senate, I have voted in an independent way. I have sided with the Democrats more often on the big issues than Republicans. I support a woman's right to choose, Roe versus Wade. I am opposed to warrantless wiretapping. I have voted to raise the minimum wage.

“And take the Bork confirmation proceeding. It would have been a different Supreme Court had Bork been confirmed, and I led that fight to defeat him. He didn't even believe that equal protection applied to women.

“So that in the context of being an independent, it is true. I am not ideologically bound.”

When Specter left the GOP last year, he was quickly embraced by the Democratic establishment beginning with the president and vice president. But Specter’s path to the Democratic Senate nomination has not been a clear one. Rep. Joe Sestak is challenging Specter for his party's nod notwithstanding the support the former Republican has from the White House and from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Sestak has surged in recent weeks with polls showing the race virtually even in the final days before Tuesday’s primary.

Specter, who at 80 is more than 20 years older than his challenger, said Sunday that he is the best candidate to beat former Rep. Pat Toomey, the likely GOP nominee, and to keep his Senate seat in Democratic hands in order to continue to support the president’s agenda.

“Sestak can’t do it,” Specter told Crowley.

The senator added,” You've got to face up to the issue sand you've got to be strong and you've got to be tough. And I'm the guy to do it.”

And in a race where Sestak has sought to cast Specter as not being a reliable or true Democrat who can be trusted to back the party, Specter took a not so veiled shot at his opponent on the issue of party loyalty.

Earlier in the broadcast, Sestak had refused to say whether he would support Specter if the senator prevails in Tuesday’s primary. Asked whether he would support Sestak if the tables were turned, Specter did not hesitate.

“Sure. I am going to support anybody against Pat Toomey,” said Specter, who bested Toomey in a past GOP Senate primary. “It is not going to happen, but I will answer your question, Candy. [Sestak] wouldn't answer your question as to what he has to hide. He wouldn't answer your questions all over the lot, ducks and bobs and weaves.”

Since Obama named Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his second pick to sit on the Supreme Court nearly a week ago, Specter has also taken fire from Sestak over his previous opposition to Kagan when she came before the Senate last year (when Specter was a Republican). Asked about Kagan Sunday, Specter defended his tough stance toward her nomination to be solicitor general last year but he said he was keeping an open mind the second time around.

“Confirmation hearings are to find out - to tell the senators and the American people where [nominees] stand as a matter of philosophy and ideology. And I think I'm making some progress on that, Candy, by being a little tough about it,” said Specter.

Filed under: 2010 • Arlen Specter • Extra • Joe Sestak • Pennsylvania • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Just One Guy's Opinion

    Time to go, Senator Spector (Ind.-egoland).

    May 16, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. Dennis

    Specter is what's wrong with DC. GOOD-BYE. You've been there far too long already.

    May 16, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. ajax

    Arlen Spector embarrssed himself during the recent town hall meeting.For him today,in an interview with Candey Crowley on CNN NEWS to cite this as a badge of honor as to why he should be re-elected is a disgrace.

    May 16, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. D.

    Pathetic and a big lier !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    At the time of the switch it looked like the Republican party has been crushed in the last election and Obama is the chosen son of this land (before he started doing nothing for too long). Then, it looked like the switch is to be sure he stayed in the majority in a land swinging Democrats. Since Democrats cannot really rule and their leaders are amateur clowns (overall, with a few exceptions not at the top level), the country has realized that in real crisis, big talkers are not exactly the model leaders and people with life experience may be better at "doing"!
    Thus, he finds himself losing this time big time (and continues to lie)!

    May 16, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. Obama the liar

    Nobody likes you Arlen. You're just a vain politiician but not as arrogant as Schumer or Boxer.

    May 16, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Karen

    I thought Senator Specter was very rude and condescending when he was on State of the Union.
    He had many years and it's time for some fresh ideas in the senate!

    May 16, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. Annie, Atlanta

    I'm not a resident of PA, so I don't really have a say. But if I was, as a Democrat, I'd vote for the real one (Sestak), not the fake one (Specter)who would do just about anything to keep his job, apparently.

    May 16, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Are you listening Pennsylvania? I suggest you look at how much money went to your state and what was done with it before you vote on Tuesday.
    The stimulous could not creat millions of jobs but it saved millions more form being unemployed. So if you want unemployment benefits cut, medicare cut, and other social programs cut, vote Republican. They did such a great job over the 16 years they had control.

    May 16, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. Dave

    HA! What utter nonsense from Specter. He says he would have been "re-elected easily.." if he had stayed in the republican party??? He had no chance, and he knew it. Why else would multiple staffers and colleagues of his told the press that Specter had told them he was switching parties because he didn't think he'd prevail in the republican primary??? Is he trying to re-write history here??

    And as for his comment about Bork not "believing that equal protection applied to women", this is also blatantly false. Bork never said any such thing, in either his testimony or his writings.

    Let's hope Sestak prevails and we can be rid of this self-absorbed double-talker once and for all.

    May 16, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. Albo58

    Judas Specter had NO chance of winning as a Republican so like a good rat, he jumped ship! And like his opponent said, Specter is definitely the poster child of what's wrong in Washington!

    May 16, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. librarian

    Senator Spector is the true maverick, not Mr. McCain. I hope he is re-elected.

    May 16, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. mj

    Try acting like a "gentleman" and bow out. What an arogant, self-serving idiot.

    May 16, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. Chris C

    Specter is senile. I'm glad he is the Democrat's problem now and no longer a Republican problem. The stimulus was a waste of money. Teacher's, cops, firemen are still being laid off. The Democrats are so far removed from reality it isn't funny.

    May 16, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. Bert in UT

    Specter was one of the last Republicans to have my respect. He has done what he said: been a reasonable, moderate, independent voice. Good for America and good for Pennsylvania. Hope he wins.

    May 16, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  15. usualone

    He most likely will lose...and his campaign ads have been too nasty. At one time I didn't like Sen. Spector but I listened to what he has said, such as helping out with the stimulus (that really is working except people won't open their eyes) and his health issue stance. He has been there so he knows about too many health issues. In that respect he is tried and comes out winning. People should think not just react. But then the hatred is way out there.

    May 16, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. Paul H

    The guy doesn't stand on values, he jumps from one party to the other. It's like a bandwagon fan of any sporting event, always jumping from winning team, to winning team.
    You either have values, and are working for the people, or not. This guy need to disappear from the world of politics. He clearly is swayed by agenda driven politicians, over needs of the people. Such is the political environment in Washington.
    That's there is a movement like the tea parties.

    May 16, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Harry

    Specter will probably lose due to both parties moving further to the fringe of the ideological spectrum. Republicans further to the right and Democrats further to the left. If people think Washington is bad now, just wait until many of those politicians who are willing to work across the aisle are gone.

    May 16, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. IggyDad

    Of course, it is in the interest of the Grand Obstructionist Party to make everyone disgusted with the partisan bickering in D.C. As the minority party, they are very happy cultivating anti-incumbent feelings in the electorate. But perhaps people will realize that they had their chance with bush/cheney, and they screwed it up. Just to vote the incumbents out will solve nothing, and will almost certainly make things worse.

    May 16, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  19. Dean

    Spector is typical of the proble,s in Washington DC. More interested inhis own career than the good of the United States.

    May 16, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Jen

    Chris said: Specter is senile. I'm glad he is the Democrat's problem now and no longer a Republican problem. The stimulus was a waste of money. Teacher's, cops, firemen are still being laid off. The Democrats are so far removed from reality it isn't funny.

    Sorry....but he will not longer be the Democrat's problem either. He will be handed his pink slip on Tuesday.

    May 16, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |