- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter carries a fat campaign war chest and a glowing nod of approval from the White House into his effort to capture his fifth — and likely his last — term in Congress.

But he has to win the Republican primary first.

A fellow Pennsylvanian, Rep. Pat Toomey, will run against him April 27 for the party’s nomination. He says he wants to give the party back its image as fiscally stingy and socially conservative.

Mr. Toomey appears to have a way to go. Mr. Specter has a double-digit lead in the polls.

“This is a contest that is the mainstream wing of the party versus a very small liberal wing,” said Mr. Toomey, a three-term congressman. “I think the battle is over whether we are going to have a mainstream Republican in the Senate, or are we going to have a guy who is trying to undermine the Republican agenda.”

Mr. Specter voted with his Republican colleagues 60 percent of the time in 2002, according to Congressional Quarterly.

However, he has garnered most of the crucial endorsements befitting a four-term senator: the White House, the state’s Republican Party, the National Rifle Association and fellow Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Mr. Toomey, who voted 96 percent of the time in line with Republican interests in 2002, is still looking for his first major endorsement.

His voting record has given Mr. Toomey’s campaign some heft among the conservative crowd in the state, but the lagging poll results — 27 percent in one survey — give him, at least for now, long-shot status.

“Sen. Specter speaks volumes across the board to Republicans,” said Dan Hayward, executive director of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, which is backing the incumbent senator. “Sen. Specter is a good Republican.”

The 73-year-old senator contends that Republicans in Pennsylvania “are in the mainstream, maybe a little more moderate.”

“My opponent talks a lot about this being the conservative wing against the moderate wing,” Mr. Specter said, “but there are 14 members in Pennsylvania’s Republican delegation. If he is a mainstream conservative, there are a lot of people in the delegation who must be really liberal.”

Vice President Dick Cheney hosted a fund-raiser last month for Mr. Specter and praised him heartily: “We are absolutely united in our determination to see Arlen win re-election to the United States Senate.”

Mr. Specter also has nearly $10 million to run ads and to rebut Mr. Toomey, who has attacked the senator’s sometimes-liberal tendencies, such as his recent designation as “Porker of the Year” by the conservative Citizens Against Government Waste. The dubious award is given to the most free-spending lawmaker.

Comparatively, Mr. Toomey, 42, has $2 million in his campaign coffers.

“It is a classic David and Goliath,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

“This is the most serious primary [Specter] has had. And he gets more conservative each time re-election draws near, but the question becomes, ‘Has he worn out his welcome?’”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide