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Not an Entirely Clear Path for Specter

3:40 PM, Apr 28, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Joe Torsella, the current front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, has vowed not to step aside and let Specter have the Democratic nomination. Unless he pulls a Specter and changes his mind in two weeks to serve his political ambition, that could make things slightly more interesting in '10:

"I decided to run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania for one simple reason: I believe we need new leadership, new ideas, and new approaches in Washington," Torsella, the former head of the National Constitution Center, said in a statement sent to CNN. "It's become obvious that the old ways of doing business might have worked for the special interests, but they haven't worked for the rest of us.

"Nothing about today's news regarding Senator Specter changes that, or my intention to run for the Democratic nomination to the Senate in 2010 - an election that is still a full year away."

The state party powers that be are hoping he'll figure out how much support they're throwing behind their preferred candidate, who is still registered as a Republican, and drop out. After all, the One is backing Specter enthusiastically, because nothing says "change" and "new politics" like a guy who's willing to change parties to make sure he has a new lease on his political life after he's displeased the people who got him elected.

Robert Gibbs indicated at the press conference today that Obama's support for Specter will include campaigning and raising money for him, even in the primary, so Joe Torsella will quickly be crushed under the hope and change of a six-term incumbent Republican.

Update: Looks like Rep. Joe Sestak, whose name had been bandied for possible entry into the Pennsylvania senate race, is not anxious to indicate he's gonna lay down for Specter:

"This shows the principle rule of politics: tomorrow is always another day - as today was. This may be good for Arlen, politically; however, two key questions need to be answered. First, after 31 years in the military, I learned that you run for something, not against someone. Arlen has made a decision to leave a race because he could not win against someone. What needs to be known is what he is running for. Second, I watched then-Gov. Clinton and then-Sen. Obama take a leadership position in the Democratic Party and shape it. The leadership that would have been most impressive would be if Arlen had used his role to reshape the Republican Party that he said he had entered when it was a "big tent," but now is leaving because it has gotten too small. In short, I believe that the principles of what he is running for and his commitment to accountable leadership are questions that still need to be addressed."

Sestak, a retired two-star admiral who beat Rep. Curt Weldon in 2006, became a darling of the 'Net left during his run for Congress, as one of the handful of veterans who made support for withdrawal from Iraq a talking point of their campaigns. It was not his Iraq stance that won him the seat, as the FBI raids of Weldon's daughter's home (the agency was investigating whether her lobbying firm had improperly benefited from Weldon's influence), defeated the incumbent. But Sestak proved to be a formidable fund raiser and good candidate, despite his political inexperience.

TPM wrote about the Sestak senate possibility earlier this month:

He told Roll Call back in December that he wasn't interested in running for Senate. But, obviously, a lot's changed since then--including the size of his campaign war chest. He's raised more than a half million dollars this year alone, and sits on over $3 million worth of loot. And, as of now, he'd only have to defeat one Pennsylvania Democrat--businessman Joseph Torsella--in the primary.

I put the question to his staff this morning and...well, all I can report is that his communications director didn't immediately stand by his statement from December. More to come hopefully, and in the mean time, keep your eye on the Sestak bubble.

Shame if he had all that money and no one to use it to beat up on.