- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Democrats are urging donors to strongly support Pennsylvania Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel’s bid to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter, saying the incumbent is in trouble, although polls show the four-term Republican with a wide lead.

Mr. Specter survived the toughest challenge in his 24-year Senate career in the April Republican primary against conservative Rep. Patrick J. Toomey. Mr. Specter spent $10 million to eke out a win in that race, taking 50.8 percent of the vote to his challenger’s 49.2 percent.

It was expected that Mr. Specter would cruise to victory in the general election, as he has always been able to attract cross-party votes running as a centrist — pro-choice and liberal on federal spending.

Mr. Hoeffel is far behind in all the polls. An independent poll conducted by Quinnepac University showed Mr. Specter leading Mr. Hoeffel 48 percent to 33 percent. The poll was released Aug. 18, surveyed 1,430 registered voters and had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

But New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has sent a memo to donors to help boost Mr. Hoeffel’s chances, saying Pennsylvania is ready to tip, and upgrading the race against Mr. Specter to the “top tier of Democratic takeover opportunities.”

“We all knew that Specter was bruised and battered from his vicious primary race,” Mr. Corzine said. “What we did not anticipate, however, was how strong of a campaign Joe Hoeffel would run and how quickly he would resonate with the people of Pennsylvania.”

He cited a Democratic poll of 600 likely voters released in early May by Bennett Petts and Blumenthal that showed Mr. Specter leading with 52 percent and Mr. Hoeffel with 40 percent, with a margin of error of four percentage points. That poll also showed Mr. Specter’s approval rating at 42 percent.

“Conservatives are still quite suspicious of his motives — they simply don’t like or trust him,” Mr. Corzine said. “Specter is left with virtually no base and now has a real challenge on his right, from conservative James Clymer, who just received enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot as the candidate of the Constitution Party.”

Democrats say Mr. Clymer can take enough conservative votes from Mr. Specter in the next two months to give Mr. Hoeffel a chance to win.

But Mr. Specter, with $3.3 million on hand as of his last filing on June 30, still has more than twice as much money as his challenger.

Mr. Hoeffel was working with $1.3 million at the same time, although fund-raising events featuring former President Bill Clinton later this month and former Vice President Al Gore in September could bolster Mr. Hoeffel’s accounts considerably.

Democrats are also encouraged by recent polls that show presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry leading President Bush in Pennsylvania. An Aug. 18 Republican poll conducted by Strategic Vision had Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Bush 47 percent to 43 percent. The poll surveyed 801 voters and had a margin of error of three percentage points.

Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the Republican Mainstreet Partnership, says her PAC sent $250,000 to Mr. Specter during his primary battle, “and we will do another $100,000 for the general, but we don’t think he is in any trouble.”

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