After 30 years in politics, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's
career ended Tuesday night when Rep. Joe Sestak defeated him in the
Democratic senatorial primary. Specter had drawn fire from the right in
2009 when he switched parties, but received extensive White House
aid for his failed reelection bid. What lessons should we draw
from his defeat?
- Dems Must Learn to Champion Anti-Incumbent
Frustration The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse
say the vote "illustrated anew the serious threats both parties face
from candidates who are able to portray themselves as outsiders and
eager to shake up the system." Neither the White House nor organized
labor could save Specter. "The results were sobering for both parties,
amounting to a rejection of candidates selected and backed by leaders in
Washington who found themselves out of step with their electorates."
and Parties Out of Touch ABC News' Rick Klein asserts, "The
primary results confirm that both parties have not only lost touch with
their grass-roots, they’ve watched them turn into thickets that can
entangle even the most experienced tenders of electoral gardens. Those
weeds don’t respect property lines labeled 'D' and 'R.'" However, "Joe
Sestak’s victory leaves Democrats with a roughly equal chance of holding
on to the seat in Pennsylvania."
- The White House Is on
Defensive The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Chris
Cillizza write, "Democrats remain on the defensive heading toward
November, in large part because of divisions over Obama's agenda, the
high jobless rate and the size of the federal budget deficit." The
Pennsylvania race pitted the White House against Democratic activists
and the Arkansas race pitted the White House against organized labor.
- Did Obama's 'Change' Call Backfire?
The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib warns, "Barack
Obama discovered in 2008 that 'change' was the most powerful word in
American politics. It still is—and there's no reason to think its
potency will dissipate between now and November's congressional
elections. ... All that suggests that President Obama didn't catch the
national change wave at its crest, as many thought at the time, but
rather jumped on it only as it was gathering strength. In some ways, all
that has changed are the issues fueling the public's desire to change
the political makeup of their capital."
- He 'Surrendered' His 'Power' National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez sighs, "As much as Arlen Specter has
driven me batty over the years, he was long
a powerful senator whom everyone wanted on his side. (And when he was
on your side, you sometimes worried he wouldn't be for long, or enough!)
He was respected and feared. He was frustrating. But Arlen Specter
surrendered the power he built for himself — and his state — when he
handed his reputation over to Barack Obama. It’s a shame to see a career
end like that."
- Democrats Don't Like Clinton Impeachers Slate's Jon Dickerson shrugs, "it was hard for a senator who spent
almost five terms as a Republican to reinvent himself as a Democrat."
Dickerson cites Specter's second book, titled "Passion for Truth" and
subtitled "Impeaching Clinton." Liberal Pennsylvania blogger Duncan Black's reaction bears that theory out:
There are a lot of reasons Arlen managed to work his fake moderate game
for so long, but I'm glad that era is over. I hope (and am mildly
optimistic) that Joe Sestak will be a better senator than one might
expect, but in any case getting rid of Arlen was a worthy goal in and of
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