- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

Conservative activist Pat Toomey is expected to step down as president of his anti-tax group Monday to launch a 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 National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele, for being one of the few congressional Republicans to support President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package.

The campaign operative, who asked not to be named 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.

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 as the reason Mr. Specter recently switched his position and opposed a fiercely contested bill designed to make it easier to unionize workplaces. The switch was a devastating blow to Mr. Obama’s effort to repay labor supporters with legislation they have long coveted.

Both labor and business interests aggressively lobbied Mr. Specter, with labor leaders even promising 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 the organizing bill.

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

Mr. Specter aired a pre-emptive attack ad against Mr. Toomey this week, linking the former stockbroker with the financial meltdown on Wall Street that has 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, and asks: “Should we let him have it?”

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