Arlen Specter Trying Hard To Reassure PA Dems

From what I hear, despite Arlen's efforts to reassure state Dems, Sestak is running anyway. Should be interesting! A few days after he switched par

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From what I hear, despite Arlen's efforts to reassure state Dems, Sestak is running anyway. Should be interesting!

A few days after he switched parties, Sen. Arlen Specter went on Meet the Press and hotly denied reports he had promised President Obama he would be a "loyal Democrat."

In dozens of conference calls and meetings since then, Specter has been trying to reassure Democratic elected officials, county chairs, and party activists around Pennsylvania of the opposite proposition: that he can be counted upon to support the president.

Participants in these efforts say that Specter has been relaxed and direct as he lays out his case, dwelling on instances in which he bucked his former Republican Party during a 29-year Senate career. Specter has been received well, they say, though some skeptics are eager for a Democrat with a more liberal record to challenge him in the 2010 primary.

"I've read about his diligence before, but I've been really impressed to see how they're reaching down to the very base of the grass roots," said Jack Hanna of Indiana County, chairman of the state party's Southwest caucus, who was on two conference calls with Specter. "The guy's on top of it."

This weekend, Specter faces the biggest public test so far of his appeal to party regulars, appearing at the Democratic State Committee spring meeting in Pittsburgh. He is scheduled to host a dessert reception after a fund-raising dinner tonight and to make a major speech tomorrow.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County, who has said he intends to run against Specter for the Democratic nomination, also plans to attend.

On Monday, Specter had a breakfast meeting with Democratic leaders in Montgomery County, moved on to Delaware County for lunch, and met with Chester County leaders in the evening.

At the Montgomery gathering, held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Washington, Specter faced a couple of challenging questions about his support for key elements of former President George W. Bush's agenda, including the tax cuts for the wealthy and the Iraq war.

"He was one of the enablers in the Senate because, as a moderate with a lot of seniority, he was in a position to stand up to Bush," said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel. "I have a hard time getting past that."

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