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Toomey Time in Pennsylvania

Former Rep. Pat Toomey is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter iin Pennsylvania's Republican primary. AP Photo by Matt Rourke

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey made his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter official today, accusing the incumbent of being "complicit" in an effort by President Barack Obama and Congress to steer the country far to the ideological left.

"This is the most liberal president in the history of the Republic at a time when a liberal Congress is pursuing an agenda to take America way left on economic policy," said Toomey in an interview this afternoon with the Fix. "We need someone who is going to stand up and fight back."

Toomey cited the "lurch to the left" by the Obama Administration as well as Specter's vote in support of the $787 billion economic stimulus plan as the main motivators in pushing him into the Senate race. (He had also been actively mulling a run for the open governor's seat in 2010.)

He also insisted that much had changed since six years ago when he came from nowhere to within 17,000 votes (out of more than one million cast) of beating Specter. Not only do Democrats control all levers of power in Washington but Specter's standing has been significantly weakened as well, according to Toomey.

"Senator Specter is in a much more vulnerable position," said Toomey. "After 30 years in office, he has overstayed his welcome and betrayed Republicans too many times."

Specter campaign manager Chris Nicholas matched Toomey's verbal ferocity when asked for comment about the former Congressman's candidacy -- painting a Toomey primary win as a Democratic dream scenario.

"Without Senator Specter's seat in the Senate, which Mr. Toomey would certainly lose, there would no longer be 41 Republican Senators to filibuster and stop the Democrats from passing card check, raising taxes, and implementing President Obama's massive spending plans," said Nicholas.

He added that Toomey was "farther to the right" than former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) who spent better than $30 million only to lose to Sen. Bob Casey (D) by 18 points in 2006.

Toomey countered that he would actually make a stronger general election candidate -- noting his three victories in the swing 15th congressional district and the near-certainty that if Specter won the primary he would face a conservative third party candidate (Toomey himself?) in the fall election.

In case you might have missed it, these two politicians REALLY don't like one another. (We can't emphasize that strongly enough.) This race -- without question the marquee primary in the country in 2010 -- is going to be an absolute bloodbath. And, we will be there every step of the way.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 15, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: White House Cheat Sheet: Elevating Economic Messengers


If Allyson Schwartz or Joe Sestak enter the race on the D side, even Specter will have a hard time holding this seat. Toomey would have no chance -- though I will still register as an R to vote for Specter in the primary.

2010 promises to be a fun year in PA politics as we'll have a Gov. race as well.

Posted by: mnteng | April 16, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Go Toomey. "Operation Bloodbath" proceeds apace. Rush, pay attention as to how these things work. I smell a Democratic pickup in 2010 and a 60+ majority in the offing.

Posted by: mypitts2 | April 16, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Harrisburg1. I'm also a liberal Democrat, living outside Philly, who has a soft spot for Specter. He's been a good Seantor for Pennsylvania, and I've admired many of his recent votes (Lilly Ledbetter!).

I grew up when there were a lot of moderate Republicans around (Charles Percy, Nelson Rockefeller, Eisenhower, et al) and I'm sorry that their party doesn't think there's room for them in the GOP. They had/have a lot to give to the party.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 16, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"Senator Specter is in a much more vulnerable position,"


right along with every other repuglitard in congress

does toomey ever study the REASONS that specter is in a "much more vulnerable position" ???

here's a clue, stoopid dude

the People Of America are SICK AND TIRED of repuglitarded extremists, mr toomey

and since you, mr toomey, are a repuglitarded extremeist, arlen specter isn't really threatened BY YOU

the only power you have here, mr toomey, is to ENSURE that a Democrat wins the Senate seat currently held by arlen specter

and since that would render the repuglitard party TOTALLY IMPOTENT, I hope you run

Posted by: frankpatriot | April 16, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

dasimon asks
"Does anyone think Toomey could win statewide against a moderate Democrat? If not, what's the point of him running?"

Yes, conservatives think the Republican party suffered losses in 2006 & 2008 because they *weren't conservative enough*. Their argument is that the problems we face today are caused strictly by excessive gov't spending, and that cutting Gov't spending is the only rational solution. They think that's a winning message with voters, and therefore Toomey is an obviously strong candidate.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 16, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Always look forward to a 'Bloodbath'.

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 16, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Pat Toomey is the former President of the Conservative Club for Growth. This is their M.O. Run very Conservative candidates in primaries against moderate Republicans that they feel have betrayed the party. They have won many priamries with their candidates but they have yet to win a general election. This is because they fail to realize that there is a reason a moderate Republican holds the seat, the district is moderate. I agree that many extreme liberals are very out of touch with the average American, but so are extreme conservatives. The fact is that America is a nation of moderates. Depending on how you feel about some key issues you might vote Republican or Democrat but the bulk of the population is right there in the middle.

Posted by: cmb1 | April 16, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

When Democrats were looking for someone to challenge Santorum, they knew they had to find a moderate who could appeal statewide. They settled on Casey, cleared the field, and won handily.

Does anyone think Toomey could win statewide against a moderate Democrat? If not, what's the point of him running? (Unless one thinks the Democrats will nominate a vulnerable left-winger, none of which I see on the horizon.)

Democrats have won majorities by adjusting their principles to the states and districts in which their candidates run (see Casey's pro-life stance). It has made for a sometimes unwieldy group, but they're in charge. What's left of the Republican party seems increasingly ideological. It may make for more cohesion, but it's not going to win elections in places that don't buy into that ideology. Toomey, should he win the primary, would only exacerbate that trend.

When Senator Schumer was chair of the DSCC, he said Casey was the "only" person who could win the PA Senate seat against Santorum. Whether that's true or not, Specter is one of the few who can hold that seat for Republicans. Absence a huge misstep by Democrats, Toomey won't come close. Why he and many of his fellow party members can't see that is a mystery.

Posted by: dasimon | April 16, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

All Toomey will do is turn the Republican Senatorial primary in Pennsylvania into another expensive bloodbath and, if he loses, he will compound the damage by running a third party candidacy. All he will prove is that the respected moderate Republican such as Pennsylvania has sent to the Senate in times past like Hugh Scott and John Heinz or elected governor, like William Scranton, Sr., is officially on the extinct list like the dodo bird. He may well succeed in giving the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate the fillibuster-proof majority of its dreams. As a liberal Democratic voter in Pennsylvania, I'll be thrilled, but, as a citizen of Pennsylvania, I also know that this will deprive the state of the bargaining power that having a senior minority Senator with a swing vote currently gives it.

Posted by: Harrisburg1 | April 16, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse



Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is a good and decent man who carries inside him a heavy burden of history.

He can revivify his reputation as a fair-minded advocate for human and civil rights by confronting an ugly truth...

...credible reports of ongoing domestic torture via radiation weaponry approved by the Bush-Cheney Department of Justice for use on civilians deemed as "undesirables" by federal and/or local law enforcement agencies nationwide.

This extrajudicial punishment -- victims say it is nothing less than torture -- is compounded by a coordinated series of multi-agency action "programs of personal destruction" which drain the family finances of the families of unjustly "targeted" persons, making it impossible for them to economically survive.

These programs surely have contributed to the nation's financial meltdown -- and may indeed be a primary cause of the global economic crisis.

Sen. Specter, these abuses are going on in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. You are a skilled prosecutor; if you cared to sharply question police chiefs and other law enforcement and federal officials that you know personally, and if they responded candidly, you could incontrovertibly confirm the accounts presented in the articles linked below -- articles based on first-hand accounts of events happening in the Philadelphia area:


Posted by: scrivener50 | April 15, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Ok.....couple of things about that 15th district in Pennsylvania....Toomey won it during the Republican wave earlier this decade and the Republican, currently representing PA's 15th District, Charlie Dent, is a moderate (much like SPECTER) and who like Specter is a Member of the Centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, has voted for stem cell research, is a member of the Republican Majority for Choice (i.e. pro-choice abortion) and has voted for things like The Employment Non-Discrimination Act and The Matthew Shepard Act (hate crime legislation to include gays and lesbians). That 15th district, which Toomey last won in 2002 (which will mean 8 years has passed) appears to be much different (much like the American Electoral Demographic) than what it was when Toomey was their Congressman earlier this decate. It is much more moderate - in fact should Toomey beat Specter in the primary, I think he'd likely lose in his old home district against any generic democratic candidate and probably by a pretty wide margin too and here's why.

I went to the official website for the State of PA Senate returns for 2006 to get some data and it is below. In fact, Santorum (who Specter is pegging to the left of Toomey) lost ALL four counties 15th district counties by hefty margins to Bob Casey in 2006 and the two main counties in the district (Northampton and Lehigh) were NEARLY IDENTICAL to the overall Pennsylvania total which was 58.7% for Casey and 41.3% for Santorum. Broken out Northamption (which is entirely in the 15th district) 58.3% (Casey) to 41.7% (Santorum), Lehigh County (which is almost entirely in the 15th district) 57.7% (Casey) to 42.3% (Santorum). The other two counties (Berks and Montgomery) have small percentages of people in PA's 15th district and Berks County went to Casey 54.8% to 45.2% and Montgomery County went to Casey 61.9% to 38.1%.

While I am certainly NOT a fan of John Cornyn, he is right in the fact that Specter is the only Republican who can hold onto the Senate seat and this swing district proves that (in the 2008 presidential election, Obama (who won PA 55%-44%) won ALL four counties at nearly IDENTICAL MARGINS that Casey did in 2006 (as well as Obamas own margin of victory in 2008) Northampton County 56% to 43% and won Lehigh County 57% to 42%, Montgomery County 60% to 39% and Berks County 54% to 45% - and this to McCain - a guy politically to the left of Santorum and Toomey.

Bottom line, PA has shifted in the last six to eight years (and the 15th district seems to be a very accurate barometer of how Pennsylvania votes as a state at large when it comes to statewide elections with Washington implications) and is becoming more and more like the rest of the Northeast in terms of its politics.

Posted by: robbygtx | April 15, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Toomey really doesn't stand a chance in a general election in Pennsylvania. His 6 years in Congress passed unnoticed by the state and his own web page (no legislation, no vision, no impact). He voted down the line with Bush, and we all know how popular that legacy is. The end result is that his "grass roots" campaign gets all its impetus from his pals at the Club for Growth. C for G has yet to elect a state-wide candidate anywhere, and they've made a run at it in states with many more Conservatives than Pennsylvania has.

Toomey gave Specter a scare in 2004, but that seems to have been mostly because Arlen forgot to campaign. Specter's got his own problems -- he'll be just months away from 81 in November of 2010, and if he keeps trying to establish his bona fides as a right-thinking Republican he's not going to be able to posture as a Republican who follows his own path anymore.

If he'd announced his retirement instead, he could have picked his own heir and he'd be enjoying a victory lap.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 15, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

And where is the RNC Chair in all of this?

Does he have a parking pass to use the Fuhrer Bunker, now that Cheney doesn't have to hide to protect the president?

And this (don't say idiocy, the Republicans might realize just how stupid all this is) is going all over the country. Don't think, don't reconsider, don't ruminate on recent defeats, just run up the banner of Reagan and Tax Cuts and expect to be forever victorious.

No compromise, no quarter, never surrender.

Even the POPE has admitted error in recent years.

Toomey? Roma Locuta, Causa Finita!

And not one Republipundit dares gainsay the base.

Seventy percent (Republicans who don't accept Obama at all) of thirty-three percent (of voters self identifying as Republican) is less than twenty-five percent (of all voters), who are, by the way, about sixty percent of the voting age population, so that seventy percent of thirty-three percent of sixty percent is less than fifteen percent of eligible voters.

I just LUUUUV Toomey's chances if the general election.

Anorectic and none.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 15, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

This is great news. Thank you, Pat Toomey. Just when the Democrats are looking for a Filibuster-proof majority, along comes Pat ready to split the GOP vote, and hand the next Pennsylvania senate seat to any Democrat who can fog a mirror. What a brilliant move, Pat. Go for it. Let's see, now, with Franken coming in, and a Dem to replace Specter, hmmm, looks like a Filibuster-proof situation to me. So, cheer him on, right-wing GOPers. Help make your party even more marginalized than it is now. Make my day.

Posted by: rob15 | April 15, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

The Fix quotes Toomey:
"This is the most liberal president in the history of the Republic at a time when a liberal Congress is pursuing an agenda to take America way left on economic policy," said Toomey in an interview this afternoon with the Fix. "We need someone who is going to stand up and fight back."

At this stage of the game, Sen Cornyn is correct. If the PA GOP nominate Toomey, their chances in the general election fall. Its strange that Toomey & his supporters think its sound strategy to run against a President that won their state & still enjoys high approval ratings. They're going to have to come up with something better than hoping the economy is still stagnant next year - or they're going to lose. Again.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 15, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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