Morning Fix: Specter vs. Sestak Heats Up
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has ended his silence in his Democratic primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak, repeatedly ripping the challenger for his spotty voting record as a private citizen and a series of missed votes in Congress.
The latest hit from Specter comes in the form of a Web video released by his campaign on Monday; "Who has the worst voting record in Pennsylvania?" asks the ad's narrator.
Prior to the release of the new Web ad, Specter spent the better part of the last week hammering Sestak on the fact that he did not vote much of the three decades before deciding to run for Congress.
"Senator Specter is running for reelection to the Senate but is still doing his day job," said Specter campaign manager Chris Nicholas. "Sestak is running for the Senate and not doing his day job."
Why has Specter raised the volume so high after months of silence on Sestak? "He's been attacking the Senator for nine or ten weeks," explained Nicholas, who added that the incumbent decided of late to make sure Sestak knows he is "not going to get a free ride."
Sestak sees Specter's increased willingness to attack him as evidence that the Republican-turned-Democratic senator still hasn't given up the "swift boat tactics" that "destroyed [former Georgia senator] Max Cleland and [Massachusetts Sen.] John Kerry."
Sestak is not, however, a bystander in the back and forth. His campaign issued a release Monday bashing Specter for the way he handled himself during the confirmation hearings of judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.
"Arlen Specter has announced he will vote for Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination -- but only after giving the first Latina nominee to the Supreme Court a worse grilling than his Republican colleagues," reads the release.
Two things are clear from Specter's stepped-up criticism of his primary rival.
First, Specter, a savvy politician, knows that he cannot let Sestak tour the state taking shots at his Democratic bona fides at every stop. A party-switcher is always vulnerable to the charge that he is, in reality, a wolf in sheep's clothing, and Sestak is working hard to raise doubts in voters' minds about whether Specter is really a Democrat.
Second, Specter may have changed parties but his hard-edged approach to campaigns, which won him the nickname "Snarlin' Arlen" and has kept him in the Senate for five terms as a Republican in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, remains intact.
Unlike some of Specter's past opponents, however, Sestak seems more than willing to mix it up. "I can take a punch," he promised.
The next year (or so) will put that vow to the test.
Senate Committees Report Fundraising: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nearly doubled the fundraising numbers of its Republican counterpart in June, increasing its cash edge six months into the 2010 election cycle. The DSCC collected $6.2 million in June -- thanks to a major assist from President Obama -- and ended the month with $7.9 million in the bank. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $3.4 million in June and closed the month with $4.3 million on hand. The NRSC did not carry any debt, however, while the DSCC is still sitting on $3.7 million in arrears (although the committee has paid off more than $9 million since the 2008 election). With cost-prohibitive states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Missouri all hosting competitive Senate races next fall, Senate Republicans must find a way to stay within shouting distance of their Democratic counterparts. In the 2008 election cycle, Republicans were badly outspent in nearly every race in the country, a significant factor in the eight-seat pickup for Democrats.
Click It!: The American Health Insurance Providers (AHIP) -- a.k.a. the health insurance industry -- is up with a seven-figure ad buy in the D.C. media market urging lawmakers to "fix" (a blatant ploy to curry favor with this blog) the broken health care system. The ad, which sources familiar with AHIP paint as the leading edge of a broader advertising effort on the legislation, calls for an incremental approach on health care; the narrator intones -- "We're America's health insurance companies . . . supporting bipartisan reforms that Congress can build on."
A Good Monday For Senate Republicans: Senate Republicans started the week off on the right foot as Rep. Mark Kirk formalized his plans to run for the Senate in Illinois and New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte formally filed papers to run for the Senate in the Granite State. Kirk and Ayotte are two "A" level recruits for Senate Republicans, joining Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in that category. If Senate Republicans can land Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware, they will have the foundation for their best recruiting class since 2004.
Snyder Enters the Fray: Businessman Rick Snyder will enter the already crowded Republican primary race for governor of Michigan today, casting himself as an outsider to the politics that have brought the state's economy to its knees. Snyder, a former president of Gateway computers, will declare the Michigan economy a "disaster" and blame "career politicians in Lansing" for having failed the people, according to remarks obtained by the Fix. Snyder will cast himself as an entrepreneur who has spent much of his life building successful business. Snyder will make his formal announcement today in Dearborn and then embark on a five-day RV tour of the state. His messaging seems to be a combination of the populism of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and the business know-how of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R). It's not yet clear whether that message -- coupled with Snyder's personal wealth -- will be enough to distinguish him in a field crowded with well known pols including Attorney General Mike Cox, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Rep. Pete Hoekstra.
Chu Makes Energy Cool: Preparing for the battle to come over cap and trade legislation that has passed the House but remains a tough sell in the Senate, Energy Secretary Steven Chu is launching his own Facebook, You Tube and Flickr sites today to highlight the "Obama Administration's work to ensure America's leadership in building a clean energy economy," according to a release set to go out today. It's not exactly a squirrel on water skis or a guy dancing around to unveil a new t-shirt but it's not bad.
Say What?: "It was like saying n--r to a Puerto Rican." -- New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, using the full racial slur and trying, unsuccessfully, to take a shot at appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
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