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Will lefty insurgents win big next week?

Don't look now, but the lefty insurgents could be on the verge of scoring not one, but two major victories next week.

People aren't focused enough on this. But let's step back and put it in a larger context: If Joe Sestak defeats Arlen Specter on Tuesday, and Blanche Lincoln is forced into a runoff, it will represent a major rebuke to the Dem establishment. The Tea Partyers and the ouster of Charlie Crist and Robert Bennett have sucked up most of the media oxygen, but it's very possible that a similarly dramatic upheaval is about to happen on the left.

The Dem establishment, as is their role, has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect Specter and, to a lesser extent, Lincoln. Obama's political operation is cranking out calls for Specter, and the DSCC is funding Specter's TV ads.

Meanwhile, there are indications that the Dem Senate leadership may be delaying a watering down of Lincoln's proposal on derivatives to avoid embarrassing her before Tuesday.

Anything can happen between now and Tuesday. But Sestak has now edged ahead of Specter in multiple polls, and Lincoln's campaign has now conceded that she'll likely endure a runoff with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, which Halter could very well win.

This is all rather surprising, to put it mildly.

According to labor sources, Dems in D.C. privately scoffed early on at the notion that a challenge from the left had a prayer in a conservative state like Arkansas. And Sestak was written off early on by the national media. The big national political reporters have only just parachuted into the race with one week to go.

To be sure, the battle lines are blurred between the two races. Labor has poured millions of dollars into the campaign of Lincoln's challenger. Meanwhile the big unions are backing Specter, and Sestak's backing on the left is mostly netroots-driven. But the overall storyline is clear: The two candidates backed by the Dem establishment, both of whom were thought to be sure things only weeks ago, are now in trouble.

If Sestak wins and Halter does force Lincoln into a runoff, Dems in D.C. will ascribe it to a generalized anti-incumbent fervor that's sweeping the land. Surely there will be some truth to that. But surely some of the credit should also go to the people who maintained, in the face of enormous skepticism, that Specter and Lincoln are not invulnerable, just as the media chatters nonstop about the Tea Partyers.

Again, anything can happen between now and primary day. But I don't think people are focused enough on how big a deal it would be if both Specter and Lincoln are rebuked next Tuesday.

UPDATE, 3:10 p.m.: More on this topic right here.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 13, 2010; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans , Tea Party  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: More signs of confidence from Sestak?
Next: Meek demands Crist reveal position on Kagan


"I don't think people are focused enough on how big a deal it would be if both Specter and Lincoln are rebuked next Tuesday."

Democrats are taking over the Democratic Party!

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I think a runoff in AR is very possible, but I continue to have doubts that Sestak can overcome the GOTV campaign in PA. It's a machine state, and that machine is working for Specter.

Don't get me wrong, I want both Sestak and Halter to win - as both are better candidates for the fall. I think Halter has a good chance of holding Lincoln under 50, but I believe Sestak will have to be up by near double-digits to overcome the GOTV campaign that will be waged against him.

The new ad Sestak has out is a good one. Good, positive contrast ad when last minute voters, who haven't been paying attention, are starting to. Couple that with his attack ad from last week, and you've got the makings of some major movement.

Halter just needs to keep doing what he's doing. Draw attention to the shady groups that are attacking him, and tie that to Lincoln's "DC" stigma. Using the Dems plan to hold off watering down reform for her would also be a great line of anti-incumbant attack: "Stalling the reforming of Wall Street to protect her seat at the table for them."

Here's to hoping for a strong finish for both of them.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | May 13, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse


I am confused why the Obama admin is backing Specter so strongly. I mean why not just back whoever wins in the primary? And isn't Sestak more likely to win in the general? So why are they backing Specter?

Posted by: michiganmaine | May 13, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

To continue the point from the last thread, a big factor here is that neither Specter nor Lincoln are polling well against the GOP candidate, AND both Sestak and Halter are excellent candidates.

It's amazing the Village ignores this little tidbit so often: run a Coakley and lose, run a Sestak or Halter and get a chance.

Democratic Party establishment! You paying attention now?

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

And folks, it's not too late to donate even 10 bucks to the Halter campaign.

Be part of the solution.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

michiganmaine, I just don't know. I mean, the original deal had to do with getting that 60th vote for health reform. but why they are so heavily invested in Specter right now I just can't say -- maybe reflexive belief that incumbents are stronger candidates?

Posted by: sargegreg | May 13, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse


I guess that is it. But it seems pretty tone deaf and especially so in the present political climate.

Posted by: michiganmaine | May 13, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Greg I think it's surprising you because of the woeful fail by MSM. The Tea Party and the astroturfers/Armey/Fox/Beck get out 40-60,000 people in DC and it's an uprising.
Immigration reform supporters get out hundreds of thousands and it's ignored.

The Tea Party is simply the squeakiest wheel and they are getting the grease.

Look at this from a truly progressive perspective...

Obama promised to veto any HCR without a robust P.O. when he was campaigning. Then when reality presented a golden opportunity to get the P.O. Obama didn't get behind it at all. He crafted a plan which benefits Insurance companies more than consumers...yes give him credit for some reforms...but it was basically republican light...let's make sure we use the private sector for HCR.

His Afghan and Iraq policies can hardly be described as progressive and in fact basically mimic Bush policies.

He freaking came out for more off shore drilling.

Really Greg...tell me what the Dems have done for the middle class(other than a much appreciated tax cut in the stimulus)...explain to me how they are anything but republican lite.

The freakin lunatic fringe of the Conservative...Palin..Rush..Beck etc have pushed the MSM so far to the right that old Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon policies are now literally considered liberal.

How much longer are progressives supposed to simply eat it. Just because we're not in the streets organized by some astroturfers profitting from our discontent doesn't mean there is not an angry component on the left to match the Tea Party on the right.

Get the eff out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!!!Stop wasting lives and money.

Give us TRUE financial reform.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 13, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Just about the only way average Americans have available to them to express their displeasure or support of folks in Congress is through their vote. We're seeing a lot of Dems unhappy with some incumbents in our own party. Whether they used to be Republicans and we don't really trust them or they work at the behest their corporate puppet masters, the voters will speak through their vote.

It may not be the best strategy in the world, only the general election will give us that answer, but I think it's an important step in cleaning up Washington on both sides of the aisle. I say it's always better to throw your support, vote and money toward the candidate who you think will do the best job. Let's hope it works.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 13, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Stuff like this is not gonna help Specter one bit:

"On a related note, Specter made an unfortunate mistake at a key moment: he opened and closed his remarks to the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's Jefferson-Jackson dinner this week by thanking them for their support. Regrettably, he called them the Allegheny County Republicans." via Benen

(Apologies if this has already been posted.)

Posted by: suekzoo1 | May 13, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

@michiganmaine - re Specter/Sestak... I don't understand the present Dem support for Specter either. Perhaps his experience in that body is seen as valuable (and it probably is). And perhaps there's an understanding as to his behavior in the future (wouldn't surprise me).

But in any case, that support is not terribly visible other than to a sliver of the electorate who closely attend to this stuff. And Obama's apparent decision to not come out openly for Specter suggests that invisibility is valued here.

If Sestak does win, Obama is not in a bad place. Nor is Sestak. Likewise the other possible result. And whoever wins is then going to get the big, fighter-fly-over support up to novemember.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 13, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

ruk, I'll try to find the link but I guess last night Obama issued a WH statement along the lines of the possibility of our needing to stay in Iraq a little longer. Things are not exactly going according to plan.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 13, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I said it before and I'll say it again. I think Specter and the Dems had a 'prenup' that the Dems are honoring and that's why he's getting the support. Are they going all-in or is it mostly lip service?

Posted by: joeff | May 13, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

ruk, here's the memo. There is speculation that it regards primarily the Iraqi economic situation so it may not be as bad as it sounds:

"I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication, continuing the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq. This notice states that the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond May 22, 2010."

"Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency."

Posted by: lmsinca | May 13, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Precisely why I stopped giving $ to the DSCC. When they called and asked me for $1,000 (!!!!) I just about blew my top. Why in God's name should I give the DSCC money to re-elect Republicans like Arlen Specter? I told the guy, I guess I'm too liberal for the Democratic Party, which considering I live in Tennessee is saying something. I'm no "Hollywood liberal" but even I can see that our Democratic Party's shift rightward in an effort to lure wingnuts has been a disaster.

Posted by: southernbeale | May 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cilizza concludes that Specter is toast, offers 5 reasons why, and not one of them is that the Dem Base is taking the party back from the hacks.

Yo, Greg! Talk to that boy, wouldya?

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

There is huge disappointment on the part of the left with Barack Obama but it is unorganized.

Campaigns like Sestek's and Halter's are encouraging. Maybe it will send a message to the Democrats that we're disappointed in our president and in Congress.

Enough of these Republican Lite policies!

Posted by: francis4 | May 13, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Nine people were indicted Wednesday on federal charges of accessing President Barack Obama's student loan records while they were employed for a Department of Education contractor in Iowa.

The U.S. attorney's office said a grand jury returned the indictments in U.S. District Court in Davenport.

All nine are charged with exceeding authorized computer access. They are accused of gaining access to a computer at a Coralville office where they worked between July 2007 and March 2009, and accessing Obama's student loan records while he was either a candidate for president, president-elect or president.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | May 13, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't see why Sargent finds this surprising.

November is going to purge Congress of its most conservative Democrats. The super-liberal Dems come from safe districts. The more conservative Dems, like Kratovil in MD 1D who rode in on Obama's coattails, will ride out the same way.

Hence, the battle lines in DC will be even more starkly drawn in 2011 & 2012.

Hence, Civil War 2 by 2013.

Posted by: pmendez | May 13, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Joe Sestak, lefty insurgent? Jeez, the guy is just a regular Democrat, and regular Democrats in PA are voting for him. We've been voting against Arlen all our lives. But our crack Washington press corps decided early on that Arlen is all-powerful and cast any opposition as the work of uppity left-wingers. I'd be surprised if these preening idiots got anything right.

Posted by: phillygirl2 | May 13, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"@michiganmaine - re Specter/Sestak... I don't understand the present Dem support for Specter either."

This beffudlement on the part of Greg & the rest beffudles me. I think this is very easy to figure out, but you need to pay attention to the people involved.

Who ran the DNC for a big chunk of the time Bill Clinton was president?

What position does that individual now occupy?

Who is responsible for that person even being in public life at all?

Pennsylvania is indeed a machine politics state.

Who has the biggest say right now over how that machine operates?

I ask again, to whom is that person most indebted for having the career that person has?

On top of that, Joe Biden was the senator from the state next door, and he gets along really, really well with Specter, too.

As to Obama - well, he owes Arlen. That's no secret.

(I had to rename myself "akaoddjob" because when I registered here I learned "oddjob" was already taken and they wouldn't let me have that name, but this is nonetheless "oddjob".)

Posted by: akaoddjob | May 13, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

The super-liberal Dems come from safe districts. Like Teddy's seat in libreal MA?

Posted by: obrier2 | May 13, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Particularly among the older voters (more likely to follow and participate in a special election), there are many more "Reagan Democrats" in Massachusetts than most of the country realizes.

Posted by: akaoddjob | May 13, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse


Kennedy was a Senator. Senators don't have districts. They have states.

Posted by: pmendez | May 13, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse


Kennedy was a Senator. Senators don't have districts. They have states.

Plus, he was dead. In MA the dead often vote, but they are never, ever elected to national office.

Posted by: pmendez | May 13, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse


The reason Obama is backing Arlen strongly is simple: this is what they pledged to do if he switched parties.

Have no doubt, when this was first brought up in a back room someplace last year, Arlen had his eye on the possibility of a primary challenge. Gov. Rendell's people told him two things. First, they were going to actively discourage anyone from challenging him, and two, if anyone did, Obama would be in Specter's corner, hard.

Granted, these pledges were stupid and short-sighted. I really don't think there's much doubt that in the current environment, Specter would be a dead duck in the general, whereas Sestak has some upside.

But we have seen the vast power a single sitting senator can wield when they're disgruntled and they want to gum up the works, So they committed to Specter and they will good their commitment.

Now, the interesting questions arise when/if Specter loses. How good a Democrat will he be for his last six months in office? Will he feel any obligation to support Sestak's candidacy?

Posted by: howlless | May 13, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

And will Rendell let the machine go all out for Sestak as he runs against Toomey? (I suspect the answer to that is yes, but if Sestak wins it will still merit some watching. Rendell also was big time for Hillary Clinton and ran the state machine hard against Obama in the primary, but came around after the nomination.)

Posted by: akaoddjob | May 13, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Nobody likes Specter.

Hope he's tossed out in the Primary.

Posted by: WillSeattle | May 13, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Sargent... you might as well put at the end....

This ad was paid for by teh AFLCIO

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | May 13, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I agree!

We MUST promulgate more resentment through inflammatory rhetoric!

The "Lefty Insurgents" must arm themselves for a Long War against the Conservative Militias!!!

Death to the Chattering Classes!!!!

Posted by: motorfriend | May 13, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Ahh, the irony.

The lefties sure are sounding like Tea Partiers all the sudden.

You may be able to salvage a seat or two here and there, with some primaries, Dems, but it's not going to stop the bloodbath on November 2.

Oh, and the answer to "why is Obama supporting Specter?"

DUH. He and Joe Biden practically got on their knees to get him to leave the Republicans last year, that's why. They're firmly ensconced in the same bed together.

So even if Sestak wins, just another rebuke to Obama that you can add to Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii, etc., etc., etc.,

Posted by: etpietro | May 13, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Specter sucks. Good riddance. Are you kidding me?

Posted by: unpluggedboodah | May 13, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"I am confused why the Obama admin is backing Specter so strongly."

it was part of getting him to switch parties in the first place, institutional support for his re-election as a Democrat.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | May 13, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Good. I stopped funding Dems because they have a serious blue dog problem. Sestak and Halter are more progressive choices, and I'll be thrilled to see them win. Connie Saltonstall's retreat is a sad example of what Dems have been supporting for Congress.

Posted by: MichIndependent | May 13, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse


I am confused why the Obama admin is backing Specter so strongly. I mean why not just back whoever wins in the primary? And isn't Sestak more likely to win in the general? So why are they backing Specter?

Posted by: michiganmaine


The most likely reason is that the Obama admin owns Benedict Arlen lock step and barrel and hate to see an investment go to waste or a tell all book in the near future.

Posted by: Straightline | May 13, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: howlless

The reason Obama is backing Arlen strongly is simple: this is what they pledged to do if he switched parties.


Pretty sure it goes deeper than that. Obama is not exactly known for telling the truth or keeping promises

Posted by: Straightline | May 13, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The corporatist Democrats, and the ones who sold out the party out so that they didn't have to make "tough" votes, will finally have to face the consequences for their cowardice.

Posted by: ram_lopez | May 13, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Dem crackup, clawing at each others' throats, with the nutroots in control. What could be better and more entertaining?

Posted by: DCdoozy | May 13, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

This writer wrote: "This is all rather surprising, to put it mildly."

Really? Not to me -- November will be 'historic' (borrowing a word this Admin. loves to use).

Posted by: BadNews | May 13, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

To credit "lefty insurgents" with defeating either Arlen Specter or Blanche Lincoln next week, is ridiculous. Oh but if the Left actually HAD some insurgents! You don't see the "Left" insurgents hollering and screaming and carrying guns to rallies and hanging banners over the side of the Capitol Building, and threatening our national leaders.
You don't see that because "lefty insurgents" do NOT exist. If either Arlen Specter or Blanche Lincoln are defeated it will be because the MAJORITY of the people voting in those two, basically, conservative states have had it with them.

Posted by: cms1 | May 13, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

i'd like to see stats on party re-registrations specifically done to vote against Sen. Specter.

Posted by: drc231 | May 13, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

etpietro: "The lefties sure are sounding like Tea Partiers all the sudden."

No, I think there's a major political difference, particularly in PA. Polling shows Sestak and Halter with the same or better chances in the general election than their respective incumbents. I think most of the "Tea Party" candidates do either equally or not as well as the establishment selections, Rubio perhaps excepted (though one could argue that he had emerged as the establishment pick before Crist left the party).

Posted by: dasimon | May 14, 2010 1:02 AM | Report abuse

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