Since his switcheroo, Sen. Arlen Specter has been on Meet the Press and his name is all over the headlines. That’s catnip for most politicians. But for Specter it has been a mixed blessing.
First, he suggested Jack Kemp would have been saved had we pursued Nixon’s “war on cancer” more aggressively. As unseemly comments go, this ranks high. (It reminds one of the cringe-inducing ”If not for Bush, Christopher Reeves would have been walking thanks to stem-cell research.”) It is the worst sort of factless demagoguery.
Second, he’s in the soup for trying to wriggle out of his pledge to the president that he would be a loyal Democrat. Two reporters now say: oh yes, he did say that and he didn’t object until it stirred up a hornet’s nest. Greg Sargent comments:
So, again, we’re being asked to believe Specter’s claim that he never said this, even though neither he nor his office raised a peep of protest about it to two different news outlets when they reported it, and said nothing in the five days since. If Specter privately fibbed to Obama about his loyalty to Dems, and is now publicly fibbing about having said it, perhaps it tells Democrats a thing or two about their new Senator.
And that’s what a Democrat is saying about him.
Finally, Big Labor has been clued in that Specter isn’t supporting its number one priority:
Richard Trumka, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, warned that union leaders may drop their longstanding support for Specter, D-Pa., if — as he has promised to do — he votes against them on their legislative priority, the Employee Free Choice Act.
One can sense the gears clicking in Specter’s mind: just how is he going to keep Labor’s support without blowing what’s left of his credibility?
On balance then, Specter’s had a less than stellar week. And there is plenty of buzz about a new poll, which has him leading Pat Toomey by a substantial margin but closely ahead of Tom Ridge. It is way too early to surmise how voters might feel about any of these candidates eighteen months from now, especially with high numbers saying they don’t know much about them. But one thing is certain: Specter better hope this doesn’t become a character race.