As the April 27 Pennsylvania primary approaches, three independent polls show conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) closing in on liberal Sen. Arlen Specter in the GOP Senate race, threatening the 24-year incumbent’s re-election prospects. Specter, 74, may be facing the toughest election challenge of his career. A Quinnipiac University poll, released April 20, showed the 42-year-old Toomey five points behind Specter at 49% to 44%. Two weeks earlier, the same poll showed Toomey trailing by 15 points. Two other polls — the Keystone Poll and a poll by Survey USA — showed similar results this week, indicating a surge by Toomey in the final days of the campaign. “I think it’s just all coming our way,” Toomey told HUMAN EVENTS the Thursday before the election “All the momentum, all the energy, all the enthusiasm is on our side.” Toomey confidently predicted he would take about 52% of the vote on election night. Toomey’s rise in the polls came after his statewide televised debate against Specter on April 3 — in which Specter performed poorly and looked even worse — and Toomey’s expanded radio and television ad buys this month. With help from independent expenditures by the conservative Club for Growth, Toomey has worked to portray Specter as a liberal and to frame himself as the conservative alternative. Specter Plays His Aces Negative news has also harmed Specter recently, especially revelations that George Soros is supporting his candidacy through a large donation to the liberal Republican Main Street Partnership. Specter was also struck by allegations he has threatened local officials who refuse to support him. A left-leaning citizens’ group had filed a complaint against Specter with the U.S. Attorney’s Office after Lehigh County Commissioner Andy Roman alleged that a Specter aide threatened to cut off a major rail project in the county because Roman is backing Pat Toomey. But Specter has been playing all of his aces in order to save his political life:
- He brought President Bush, who has a policy of supporting all incumbent Republicans, to a Pittsburgh campaign event April 19. Although he is ideologically closer to Toomey, Bush has been a key part of Specter’s campaign and appears briefly in each of his television ads. At the April 19 event, Bush went so far as to call Specter “a tough and principled legislator,” even though Specter has switched sides on school vouchers, partial-birth abortion, campaign finance reform, and a variety of other issues.
- Specter has used the enthusiastic backing of conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) to blunt Toomey’s attacks on his liberal voting record. Santorum, who will be campaigning with Specter in Pennsylvania on Monday, misled Republican voters by stating in a recent ad for Specter, “Arlen is with us on votes that matter.” Senate sources note that Santorum, as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, feels obligated to back Specter, but he has done so with inexplicable zeal considering that the two are ideological opposites.
- In addition to Santorum and with his help, Specter has enlisted the help of other key Senate conservatives in the final week. Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) campaigned for Specter in Lancaster and Berks Counties April 19 during Bush’s visit. Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also made a final appeal to Senate Republicans April 21 to contribute to Specter’s campaign from their leadership PACs or make a trip to Pennsylvania.
- Specter has fully exploited his enormous financial advantage, spending most of his campaign money already. Federal Election Commission records show that Specter spent $7 million — half of his war chest — in the first quarter of 2004 to fend off the conservative upstart. By election day, he will probably have spent more than $11 million on the primary. By contrast, Toomey spent just over $2 million in the first quarter, and was expected to spend less than $2 million more by election day.
- Specter has mounted a massive effort to attract volunteers by paying them $50 to $75 dollars per day, according to several e-mails obtained by HUMAN EVENTS that were sent out by the Specter campaign and College Republican groups.
The race will hinge on turnout, setting the stage for a battle between Specter’s paid volunteers and Toomey’s grassroots supporters, who are far more passionate and likely to vote. As Specter put it in an appearance on C-Span April 21, “My opponent’s supporters…will come out in a blizzard. My supporters tend to be less intense.” With no primary opposition to President Bush, and only three seriously contested GOP House primaries in the state, a low turnout is expected among Republicans. This benefits Toomey, as does the fact that one of the three contested House primaries on April 27 is in the Allentown district he left to run against Specter. Republicans there support Toomey over Specter by a large margin, according to polls taken early in the campaign. The only other major statewide race on the GOP ballot is a showdown for the Attorney General nomination between the moderate, party-endorsed Tom Corbett and Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor. Ironically, the conservative Castor’s campaign strategy is to drive turnout in the Philadelphia area. This could actually help Specter, who was once Philadelphia’s district attorney and who considers the city to be his base of support.