We have an interesting dilemma here in Pennsylvania: Arlen is cruising through the Democratic senatorial primary, but his poll numbers are much clos
February 7, 2010

We have an interesting dilemma here in Pennsylvania: Arlen is cruising through the Democratic senatorial primary, but his poll numbers are much closer against Club For Growth soldier Pat Toomey in the general election. (Then again, Sestak isn't polling much better against Toomey, either):

LANCASTER - When U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter switched from a Republican to a Democrat last year, some Democratic loyalists in Pennsylvania said hell would freeze over before they'd embrace an old foe they had been battling in statewide elections for 30 years.

Yesterday, amid the deep freeze and howling winds of the worst winter storm in years, the Democratic State Committee met in a snowbound hotel in Amish country to consider endorsements in this year's races for the U.S. Senate, governor, and lieutenant governor.

Despite the reservations of some party members, who challenged him for what they considered pro-Republican sins of the past, Specter, of Philadelphia, beat U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, of Delaware County, gaining the two-thirds majority required for endorsement by the party rules.

With chants of "Arlen! Arlen! Arlen!" from some of his supporters, Specter, who will turn 80 on Friday, practically bounded to a microphone in front of several hundred Democrats at the Lancaster Host Resort.

"I have been involved in many, many elections, but never one quite as thrilling as this," he said. "It almost feels like a presidential nominating convention."

I'll note here that Mike Stark has some misgivings about Specter's age and cognition. (Mike calls it dementia; I think it might be chemo brain.)

I have to say, though, that my own experiences with Specter have been different; he's been very sharp when I've spoken with him. Even on his worst day, no one's ever accused Arlen Specter of being dumb.

This is pretty tricky ground to navigate (Robert Byrd, anyone?). From what I hear, it was an open secret that Ted Kennedy was unable to function most of the time since his brain tumor was diagnosed, and that his wife and staff were running the show.

Should we have made him resign? Should we make Byrd resign? We need every vote we can get.

And I'm frustrated, trying to explain to out-of-state progressives why Arlen might not be so bad. (Remember, the Republicans thought he was too liberal.) As a native Philadelphian, I've been watching Arlen for decades. He can be a real weasel, but once he's bought, he tends to stay bought.

I feel the way I did watching A-Rod stick it to the Phillies in the World Series: "That smug bastard!" But would I be angry if the Phillies somehow managed to bring him on board? Hell, no.

And now that he's on our team, I can't help but see Arlen as an legitimate asset. He's really good at what he does. And at this point, it looks like he's going to be our candidate.

Can you help us out?

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