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Specter says Santorum not ‘up to being the president’ as barbs flow

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Former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who has been trading barbs with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum the last few days, said Wednesday his former colleague and fellow Pennsylvanian isn't ready for the Oval Office.

"I don't think Rick Santorum is up to being the president of the United States," Mr. Specter told The Washington Times on Wednesday. "And I'm not sure Mitt Romney is either."

But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mr. Specter said, "might make a pretty good president."

"Newt's got a lot on his resume," the Republican-turned-Democrat said, but he acknowledged that the former House speaker's "baggage" likely has cost Mr. Gingrich a real shot at the Republican nomination.

The other major candidate in the race, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, has an image problem, according to Mr. Specter. "He doesn't project 'president,' " he said.

Mr. Specter, promoting a new memoir on his final years in the Senate, "Life Among the Cannibals," has suddenly become an issue in the Republican presidential contest between Mr. Santorum and front-runner Mr. Romney.

Mr. Romney has ripped Mr. Santorum for his endorsement of Mr. Specter, then a moderate Republican, against conservative challenger Patrick J. Toomey, in the 2004 Republican Senate primary.

On Sunday, Mr. Santorum said backing Mr. Specter "certainly wasn't one of my prouder moments."

Mr. Specter, who has been practicing law, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and fine-tuning his stand-up comedy since leaving the Senate after losing the Democratic primary in 2010, said he and Mr. Santorum had a good relationship when they both served in the Senate, "though we had very deep differences philosophically."

Mr. Specter said he isn't especially bothered by Mr. Santorum's most recent comments backing off the 2004 endorsement.

"I chalk it up to political expediency," he said.

In his book, the 81-year-old has kind words for Mr. Santorum, calling the junior senator's help in the 2004 race "vital."

But the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee strikes a less forgiving tone when it comes to the Republicans who shunned him when he changed parties in 2009 and the Democratic Party leaders he says abandoned him after the switch, including President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Mr. Specter argues that Mr. Obama's reluctance to campaign on his behalf in Pennsylvania in 2010, coupled with Mr. Reid's failure to deliver on promises that his seniority would transfer with him to the Democratic Party, cost him the primary to Democratic challenger Joe Sestak.

Mr. Sestak would go on to lose the general election to Mr. Toomey.

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