May 18th, 2010
12:25 PM ET
13 years ago

Anti-incumbent wind, rain could sweep Specter from office


Arlen Specter is in a fight for his political life. (Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) – The rain is falling 150 miles north of the nation's capital on this Tuesday, likely dampening the much needed get-out-the-vote effort for Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who is in jeopardy of being swept out office after serving 30 years on Capitol Hill.

The winds of anti-incumbency blew into Pennsylvania over the past few weeks and Specter watched his once-commanding lead over Democratic primary rival Rep. Joe Sestak disappear.

Why the weather analogies? Because there hasn't been a member of Congress who has had a more stormy 12 months on Capitol Hill than Specter, the gruff and unpredictable Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat who is known in Washington and beyond as "Snarlin' Arlen."

Specter is 80 years old, but for Democrats in 2009 he was the new 60, the parliamentary crowbar Democrats needed to help muscle President Obama's controversial policies past Republican opposition in the Senate.

Specter's decision to abandon the GOP in April 2009 effectively gave Democrats that 60th vote. Democrats would have to wait until the contested Minnesota Senate race was resolved in early summer, but that was more of a formality. Democrat Al Franken's victory over GOP Sen. Norm Coleman in Minnesota handed Democrats the 59th vote – it was Specter's defection that made the GOP by and large powerless.

Specter was quickly embraced by the White House and the Democratic establishment.

"I have told him that he will have my full support in the Democratic primary," Obama said the day after Specter switched his party affiliation. "Joe Biden has said the same thing. We are confident that Arlen Specter is going to get a sixth term in the Senate and the American people are going to be better off for it."

A week in politics is a lifetime, let alone a year ago when Obama made the prediction that Specter would win re-election. What Obama and Democrats didn't count on was a primary challenge from Sestak, who had been actively recruited to run against Specter, until, of course, Specter switched parties.

Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was not deterred and launched a longshot bid to dethrone one of Pennsylvania's most powerful political figures in recent time. But public polling shows that Sestak has surged as Specter has fallen and now the Democratic Senate nomination is up for grabs.

If Specter loses, expect a major storyline Wednesday to be whether Obama has lost his golden political touch. His track record as of late has not been so good.

Despite the president's 11th-hour visit to Massachusetts in January, Attorney General Martha Coakley lost the special election to fill the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat. Another trip a few months earlier to try and save New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine also failed. And while Obama resisted heading north to Pennsylvania on a late rescue mission for Specter, he is still tied to this former Republican-turned-Democrat and Republicans are itching to highlight it.

But Specter can still win. You don't count out a centrist Republican, who has survived 30 years standing in the crossfire of GOP and Democratic politics.

The question Tuesday will be whether Sestak's plea for change will be propelled by the anti-incumbent winds. And Specter, who acknowledges the African-American vote in Philadelphia is key to his victory, must be praying for the rain to stop or that everyone has an umbrella.

Filed under: 2010 • Arlen Specter • Joe Sestak • Pennsylvania • Pennsylvania Senate
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Justen in Florida

    70 should be the max age to serve in congress.

    other than that, it will be nice to see Spector out of office.

    May 18, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. mary

    Don't know much about Specter but I think we need younger people in the office. New people new ideas! Hopefully John McCain will also go.
    Why is it that they have terms for president but not senators?

    May 18, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. Ben

    Goodbye Arlen. Don't let the door bang you on the butt on your way to the retirement home.

    May 18, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. JonDie

    I completely understand why Obama made a pact with Specter; Specter, after all, is not the Devil, and the pact made political sense.

    But I'd prefer to see a real Democrat like Sestak in office, and at Specter's age Pennsylvania really does need some new leadership.

    May 18, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. lolo

    @ John PA, you must mean the republicannot party. No matter how things turn around you will still blame Obama and that is only because he is a black person. You and your tea partiers need to be truthful with yourselves. Keep listening to Limbaugh, Sarah and Beck for your descision making. Truth be told your buddy Bush should be blamed for every item on your list. He had a surplus when he came into office and blew all of it. He and Cheney shipped the jobs overseas for the kickbacks from Haliburton. Please get a grip. Also get a life, besides complaining about Obama. You were not complaining the last 8 years. And regarding terrorist attacks, at least no one was killed on Obamas watch. Bush knew about it , ignored, lied about it and 3,000 or more of Americans were killed during 911. Boy how soon we forget when we begin hating people because of their race. Bush did everything right according to you. You are a sorry excuuse for an American. Instead of trying to build up this country you just want to tear it down and keep it separated because of your hatred and ignorance. Also call for Bush and Cheney to be put in jail for their crimes.

    May 18, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    Only a fool would want to get rid of their Representative or Senator just because they are an incumbent.

    If they're not doing their job – sure. But if they are doing a good job for your state, why get rid of them?

    People are always yammering on about how our government should be run more like a business; what kind of business person fires all their employees just because they've been there awhile?

    Folks, use your heads! Study the issues and the record your Representative/Senator has in regard to what they've done for your state.

    Don't just get caught up in the noise created by the GOP and Fox.

    Think – then vote!

    May 18, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  7. Don't Forget To Turn Out The Lights

    At least Mr Specter will have good/paid health care insurance and won't need to stand in the Obamacare lines.
    All you Liberal Dems can try spinning the mass "cleaning house" as an "anti-incumbent" thing, but the truth is (and you all know it) that Real America is sick and tired (and scared to death of) socialistic liberalism!

    May 18, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    John , PA has his cute little list of grievances against the Democratic Party.

    How about being honest here, John? These Republican presidents all left us with huge budget deficits and rising unemployment:

    Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, George W Bush.

    This Democratic president left us with a huge budget surplus and low unemployment: Bill Clinton

    President Obama was elected to clean up the huge mess left by the out-of-control spending and irresponsible economic policies of GW Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress and Senate. They cut taxes during wartime, encouraged outsourcing of American jobs, turned a blind eye to the abuses on Wall Street, and in general, favored their rich cronies over hard-working average Americans.

    The Republican Party has shown time and again they don't give a rat's behind about anyone except themselves and the wealthy.

    If you don't agree, then prove me wrong – with facts!

    May 18, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. John independent from NY

    After 10 years of complete failure in Washington we need to gut the entire organization. Every incumbant needs to be removed from office.
    I have had enough of soap box politicians, find me a pitchfork carrying farmer that understands the concept of the right way to do things and what things cost..

    May 18, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. pam

    Come on, this guy is 80 years old and 80 is not the new 60. It is 80!
    He is not a vote the Democrats can count on. You can count on Specter to do what is best for Speckter.
    Time to send this snarly old man out to pasture.

    May 18, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. R.O.B.

    It's not really so much for Spector that he's the incumbent. It's the fact that he's old and gray. Generation Y is getting rid of all these Generation X people who've been in office for decades and is out of touch only trying to hold on to power. Let go, it's over now.

    May 18, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. peter

    The message thats keeps getting played is anti incumbent but really all i hear from these races is antiRepublican.And please stop using weasel words like crowbar and explain how helping sick children to get coverage and helping people get back to work is controversial.This one sided media is what is part of the problem.It's ok to say the republicains screwed up for years put the blame where blame is due not on the people trying to help,it's hurting the country,people are more then votes and viewer ratings

    May 18, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. pam

    John at 12:39
    You forgot to mention that all of the 3 "terrorist" attacks on US soil failed.
    Not so for our last President.It is time to send Arlen home.

    May 18, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans have dooped Americans by bearing false witness declaring they are a party of the pure and the religious right while cheating on their wives and sleeping with their neighbors wife. If one truly lives by their religion they would know there is clear danger in using the Bible as platform for political gain, it's a sin and the truth will and is revealed.

    May 18, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. susie

    He's in his 80's, its time to retire.

    May 18, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. BillE

    The party of No got us into this mess so vote NO to them. Lets review
    Bush got us into this mess
    Bush started bailouts
    Bush started a war that wasn't needed
    The GOP didnt do anything but say no and then complain.

    May 18, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Brenda

    Okay, here are the facts...........

    Regarding the Specter and Sestak election-–it is currently a tie, who knows who will win.

    However, I find it interesting that none of the media-–including CNN--did a report about Sestak claiming months ago that he was offered a job by the Obama Admin to drop out of the race--which is against the law. Where was this report CNN--Sestak himself said this publicly.

    In regard to the Murtha seat.......Here is the thing......This seat has been Democrat for 30 years. The registered Democrats outnumber the Republicans 2 to 1. Just the fact that the polls are saying that this election is tied, says a LOT. Even if the Republicans do not win this seat--but came this close--should be a great concern to Democrats everywhere.

    The big shake up in the election for Murtha's seat will not be if the Republican loses--it will be if the Republican wins--as this seat should have been a solid, easily won seat for the Democrats.

    May 18, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. steve

    Yo ! Mr. Preston, why don't you just come down here and campaign for good old Arlen ?

    Could you be any more biased ?

    Every day we can count on a picture of Specter, what about Joe ?

    May 18, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. jj

    How about CNN stop reporting skewed news. We know Ed Rendell will deliver for specter. We are not stupid to punish him after helping democrats!

    May 18, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. William Jefferson

    Congressman Sestak will make a onderful senator. The US will not miss Specter. And this way Sestak will be poised for a presidential bid in 2016 to keep the WH in Democratic hands for a while longer so we continue to have serious people working on the serious problems the nation and world faces, insteady of uneducated yahoos running around spewing nonsense lies and horse manure bumper sticker slogans and thinking it passes for a policy agenda.

    May 18, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. 12monkey

    wow, what clever writing... how about some more actual facts?

    May 18, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
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