- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

Conservative activist Pat Toomey is expected to step down as president of his anti-tax group Monday to launch his primary challenge against embattled Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in 2010, according to a campaign operative close to the challenger.

Mr. Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, has spent months flirting with a run against Mr. Specter — a moderate Republican. Mr. Specter has come under fire from party activists, including new Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele, for being one of the few Republicans to support President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package.

The campaign operative, who asked to remain anonymous because the decision has not been made public yet, did not say when Mr. Toomey plans to announce his run, saying only that it won’t happen the same day he resigns.

Mr. Toomey has not been shy about his ambitions.

“As this disastrous recession worsens, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and national economy,” Mr. Toomey said in a statement last month. “I think we are on a dangerously wrong path. Pennsylvanians want a senator focused on real and sustainable job creation that gets our economy growing again. That is why I am considering becoming a candidate for the U.S. Senate.”

Mr. Toomey led Mr. Specter 41 percent to 27 percent among Republican voters in a Quinnipiac University poll released last week.

The poll showed that overall 45 percent of Pennsylvania voters have a favorable opinion of Mr. Specter, but 47 percent of Republican voters have an unfavorable view of him.

It wasn’t all good news for Mr. Toomey, a former three-term congressman.

Even though Mr. Toomey lost the 2004 Republican primary to Mr. Specter by less than two percentage points, 78 percent of all voters — including 73 percent of Republicans — said they still do not know enough about him to form an opinion, the poll showed.

Many see the anticipated Toomey primary challenge behind Mr. Specter’s recent decision to switch his position and oppose a fiercely contested bill designed to make it easier to unionize workplaces. It was a devastating blow to President Obama’s effort to repay labor supporters with legislation they have long coveted.

Both labor and business interests aggressively lobbied Mr. Specter, including a promise that the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO would urge union members to register as Republicans to help him win the primary race in exchange for his support on card check.

But shoring up his support among Pennsylvania businesses may not be enough to revive Mr. Specter’s prospects.

Mr. Specter launched an attack ad against Mr. Toomey this week, linking the former stockbroker with the financial meltdown on Wall Street that crippled the national economy.

At the end of the ad the narrator says Mr. Toomey is looking for a “bonus,” a U.S. Senate seat, then asks: “Should we let him have it?”

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