Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania — Sen. Arlen Specter’s attack ad aimed at Democrat primary opponent Joe Sestak was just one sign of a veteran contender on wobbly legs. The image of a handsome, clean-cut Navy guy accustomed to military discipline and getting things done is hard to beat, no matter how many votes he missed when his daughter was ill. The thing that stands out most in Specter’s ill-advised “No-Show Joe” ad was the attempt to pillory Sestak’s 30-year Navy career. The political ad says that Sestak was “relieved of duty” by Obama Joint Chief Mike Mullen for creating a “poor command climate.”
Other high-ranking naval officials and enlisted Navy personnel came to Sestak’s defense, describing him as an exemplary naval officer. The ad backfired, and was quickly withdrawn from TV. It was much like saying Tiger Woods was a lousy golfer for missing the cup with a chip shot from a sand trap on the 34th hole of a very long golf tournament.
Sestak’s response ads to “No-Show Joe” were restrained, depicting him with a phalanx of supportive Navy personnel, incensed by Specter’s remarks. The former Navy Rear Admiral was observing good fire discipline in saving the big guns for later. With the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race primary on May 18, just seven days away, that “later” is right now.
Sestak’s new ad is an 18-inch battery, and avoids the pitfalls of low politics by using pre-existing footage of common political activity, without even removing it from context. The Sestak theme has been consistent-he’s the real Democrat-and the proof is in the new Sestak ad depicting Arlen Specter in the arms of Republicans like Sarah Palin.
The narrator of the new Sestak ad underscores the facts: “For 45 years, Arlen Specter has been a Republican politician…”
Cut to President Bush speaking up on behalf of Specter campaign:
“Arlen Specter is the right man for the U.S. Senate. I can count on this man. He’s a firm ally…” said Bush, holding hands with former PA Senator Rick Santorum on the one side and Arlen Specter on the other.
“My change in party will enable me to be re-elected,” said Specter in the clip.
Now comes the Sestak ship-launched cruise missile as the narrator’s voice again chimes in.
“Arlen Specter Switched parties to save one job — his, not yours.”
The portrait is not flattering. The ailing Senator appears pale, and a good bit diabolical.
According to a Washington Post story written in the month Specter announced he was switching parties, President Obama promised “full support” of Specter in the 2010 elections. But Specter has thus far received tepid support from the Obama administration. NBC’s Today Show interviewed VP Joe Biden this morning. Biden said he’d be pitching for Specter today and then again “if needed” Friday and Monday. Biden failed to mention that the support would be in the form of a robo-call and a radio interview-both at arm’s distance from candidate Specter. The “president would be reaching out” possibly, said Biden. But Biden also said there were no plans for the President to “go up there” to aid the beleaguered Specter Senate campaign.
It comes down to Chicago and Pennsylvania politics, both of them bearing the baggage of historical suspicions. President Obama was in a pickle after appointing “wise, Latino woman” Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. With flagging support, Obama needed a second appointment to be less controversial and settled upon Elena Kagan as his nominee. Kagan’s strong suit among conservatives and centrists is that, as Harvard University Law president, she counter-balanced far-left and liberal academics by hiring centrist and conservative professors.
It’s a big problem for Arlen Specter in the choice of Kagan, however. When Obama made the appointment of Kagan as his Solicitor-General, Sen. Specter voted against the appointment. And last week, before Obama made his nominee appointment public, Arlen Specter appeared on NPR to tout his abilities to usher the next Obama Supreme Court nomination through the confirmation process.
It’s tough luck that Specter must now support the Obama nominee for the Supreme Court that he voted against as Solicitor-General. Meanwhile, the White House has to give the appearance of supporting Specter while finding it smoother sailing that Specter should lose. For its own political purposes, the White House needs “real Democrat” Joe Sestak. Specter is just as unpopular among the Obama left-wing base as he is among centrist Democrats.
Specter’s vote against Kagan occurred in March 2009. Just a month later, in April 2009, Specter announced he would switch parties and run as a Democrat in 2010. According to an AP story today, Specter is now taking a “fresh approach” to the Kagan nomination.
Sestak had previously accused Specter of trading his judicial committee chairman’s vote for political support from Republicans. The accusation gained momentum when Republican Rick Santorum leaked details of backroom discussions with Specter before the Bush nomination votes, an occurrence previously noted in an Associated Content story.
Politicians are fond of saying that the only polls that count are the election day polls. But Rasmussen polls today show Sestak with a 5-point lead. Other polls show Sestak and Specter neck-and-neck, a triumph in itself for the previously unknown Sestak.
Meanwhile, Republican Pat Toomey is content to let the chips fall where they lie. His “fight” has been subdued, generally depicting himself as the standard conservative, opposed to Obama Care, bailouts, and wild spending. His political ads so far look like those Norman Rockwell style holiday cards depicting mom, dad, two children, and the family dog smiling into the camera. In these turbulent times, that may be all it takes for the name-brand Pat Toomey, who is far ahead in a race against Specter but outdistances Sestak by a smaller margin. So says yesterday’s daily Rasmussen tracking poll of the Pennsylvania Senate primary race set for May 18.