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His First Smart Move

Sen. Arlen Specter has had his share of problems since switching parties. So he decided to take matters into his own hands — and cancel an appearance on Larry King Live. Good move. There is really nothing to be gained at this point by appearing in public to retrace the Norm Coleman gaffe, the bad polling numbers, the pending primary challenge, the threats from Big Labor to oppose him and the loss of seniority. As Politico bluntly put it in a story headlined “Meltdown: Specter stands alone”: “Arlen Specter infuriated Senate Republicans when he bolted from their party last week. Now he’s alienated just about everybody in the Senate Democratic caucus, too.”

The liberal blogs are giving potential Democratic challenger Rep. Joe Sestak plenty of visibility. In a Talking Points Memo interview, Sestak went on a tear:

 “He left the fight,” said the former admiral and highest ranking military man ever to serve in Congress. “In the military, we just don’t leave fights.”

Sestak’s shot at Specter comes amid grassroots grumbling that the deal Democratic leaders struck to get Specter to defect from the GOP cost the party a shot at putting a real liberal in the seat in 2010.

“I can’t figure out…why the deal was done,” Sestak told me, saying he’s concerned that the party was so quick to embrace Specter for reasons of “expediency,” and without regard to the needs of Pennsylvania voters. “It isn’t Washington’s prerogative to tell us what to do,” Sestak insisted.

And Sestak isn’t the only primary opponent for Specter. Joe Torsella is redoubling his efforts. His spokesman had this to add:

I certainly think there will be a core of Democrats in the primary who cannot stomach the idea of voting for a guy who just a few years ago was standing on stage in the warm embrace of George W. Bush. . . There is an opportunity to build a coalition of Democratic voters in the primary who aren’t willing to accept Arlen Specter as a Democrat.

Given all that, perhaps it is best for Specter to keep his head down and his mouth closed. That’s appropriate, after all, for a senator with the least seniority in his party.



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