Ben Buchwalter


Sestak In Need of Winning Message
May 28, 2009, 7:05 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012

Since Specter switched parties a month or two ago, all-but ruining Congressman Joe Sestak’s chances of winning his seat in 2010, Sestak has been nothing if not media man. He first appeared on the 24-hour cable news networks on any issue imaginable, always ending with a polite, non-committal reply to the inevitable question: “will you challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Primary?”

Sestak has now turned to the netroots. After TPM obtained letters from the congressman to supporters saying that he intends to run in 2010, he has been interviewed by Chris Cillizza of The Fix and Greg Sargent of The Plum Line. To Cillizza, Sestak rightly slams Specter’s Washington ethos and tendency to put petty politics above policy decisions. He also stresses the Senator’s past close connection to President George W. Bush, which continues to be the Achilles heel of longtime Republicans… and guys like Lieberman and Specter.

But Sestak doesn’t really bring it home. In the statement, he said, “It’s someone who was in the military for 30 years versus someone who was in Washington for the past 30 years.”

I’m genuinely happy that a more liberal Democrat has arisen to challenge Specter. But is military experience what we need most right now? No – we need progressive leaders who have extensive experience in economics who know how to steer us out of the economic crisis. It appears that the Sestak campaign will focus on foreign policy, the blockbuster issue before the economy tanked last fall. But at this point, I don’t see a candidate for any office gaining much traction focusing on anything but the economy.

And Sestak has a lot of traction to gain. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Specter crushing Sestak by 29 points in the primary. And President Obama and PA Governor Rendell – who both have a lot of pull in the state – have pledged to endorse Specter in the primary, and the spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that both he and VP Biden would support Specter over Sestak.  though Sestak has said that he would not exit the race if asked by the President.

Either way, Sestak’s candidacy is a good thing. It would be fantastic if he gained that traction and became a viable candidate. But if not, it’s important for someone to force Specter to the left. Once again, this could be 2010’s most entertaining.

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2 Comments so far
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a) Those polls mean very little right now, considering the name recognition factor. Obviously, Sen. Specter will have the incumbency, but since its party faithful who will be voting, come next Spring, Rep. Sestak will have name recognition that he doesn’t have now (no one in Pittsburgh knows who he is.) Then again, not many people in the 7th knew him five years ago. Oh the places you’ll go!
b) Look at Sestak’s original campaign. Four pillars (now five) of national security. ONE was military/homeland security. This is a guy who specifically ran for Congress for health care reform. His military record and congressional record are a huge win for Democrats. We aren’t soft on anything. We problem-solve intelligently. (butcher knife vs. scalpel…)
Sestak devotes time to developing alternative energy sources. He focuses on veteran care because our men and women are coming home from this war damaged. And Obama borrowed/co-opted/saw the rightness of his plan for getting out of Iraq.
His constituent office handles more cases for individuals in the 7th than any other congressional office. On the non-policy side of politics, the complaints against him are basically “he works hard and expects/wants that from others” and “he abused the franking privilege,” because he was sending out so much information to his constituents.
Oh, and regarding economics:
“Between tours at sea, Joe earned a master’s degree in Public Administration and a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.” From his campaign website, emphasis mine. (and one of the other pillars: economic security)
He’s grassroots politics at its best, as the party is shifting towards grassroots. He has a military record that won’t quit, an education that makes me jealous and he’s proven himself to be a fighter for the folks he cares about.
c) Joe Hoeffel just said he would support Sestak. And Hoeffel is a good example of a Pennsylvania Democrat (versus someone who identifies entirely with the national party). And while the national politicians may “support” Specter, they aren’t going to show up for the primary. They don’t want to get their hands dirty in that mess. Especially with how Specter has been voting. I also don’t believe Ed Rendell will really come into the race and stir things up. I doubt he has the relationship with Specter that he did with Hillary.

Comment by LK

I forgot to source the constituent case statement. I’m having trouble finding the official government numbers. (That’s a whole other fun-with-feds issue.)
Here’s a quote from at his second swearing-in:
“In his first term, the Congressman’s staff worked nearly 10,000 constituent cases. His goal is to exceed that level of service in the next two years.”

Comment by LK




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