Toomey to Take On Specter Again?

He isn’t there yet, but the conservative who came close to denying Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) renomination in 2004 appears headed toward a rematch in 2010with the 79-year-old who was one of three Republicans who enabled the Obama trillion-dollar “stimulus” to pass the Senate.

“I’m giving it very serious consideration,” former three-term Rep. Pat Toomey told me yesterday (March 3), “and I expect to make a decision soon.”

Conservative stalwart Toomey, who drew nearly 49 per cent of the vote against four-termer Specter in the ’04 GOP primary, had long signaled to reporters and backers that he would make a race for governor next year.  Privately, friends of the former lawmaker (who now heads the conservative Club for Growth) told me that while Toomey felt he could unseat Specter, he was far more worried about going  on to defeat the Democratic hopeful in the fall (Five years ago, after edging out Toomey in the primary, Specter went on to roll up a margin of 53% to 42% over Democratic Rep. Joseph Hoefel, whom even Keystone State Democratic candidates agree was a lackluster candidate).  

But a lot has changed recently.  MSNBC talkmeister Chris Matthews, after exploring a Senate bid for months, announced he wasn’t running.  There is talk of Franco Harris carrying the Democratic ball, but little evidence that the onetime football great is seriously exploring the race.  The name most heard in Democratic circles these days is that of two-term Rep. Pat Murphy.

Earlier this week, Toomey put out a statement saying he was now considering the Senate race instead of a gubernatorial bid (which two other Republicans have are all but announced).  Two days ago, businessman and Gulf War veteran Glen Meakem, a favorite among Pennsylvania conservatives, announced that after considering the Senate race, he was not going to run.

“The breathtaking series of events in Washington recently are things I never would have imagined before,” Toomey told me yesterday, explaining why he was now considering a Senate race. “Nationalizing government institutions, programs that create enormous deficits, serial bailouts at the expense of personal freedom—all are breath-taking.”

Specter, of course, enraged conservatives most recently when he became one of three Senate Republicans to break ranks and support Barack Obama’s three-quarters-of-a-trillion dollar stimulus package.  Last year, he was the only Republican in the Senate to support the notorious, union-backed “card-check” legislation that would scuttle secret ballots in union elections.  (The measure failed in the Senate and Specter recently announced he was now “neutral” on card-check).
Pro-life leader and past gubernatorial candidate Peg Luksik has already said he is running against Specter and businessman Frank Ryan has strongly hinted he will run.  However, Keystone State conservatives are expected to try to work out a united front by the time both of them and Toomey appear at the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Harrisburg March 27-28.

Toomey stopped short of saying he would run for the Senate.  But when I asked him about how he felt about the primary and the general election, her replied: “I’m feeling pretty good right now.”