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PA-Sen: Specter Comfortably Ahead Of Sestak

With six weeks to go in the Pennsylvania Senate primary, Arlen Specter holds an easy lead over Joe Sestak, up 53-32. With neither candidate on the air, Specter has a massive lead in name ID and Sestak has done nothing to chip away at his Democratic bona fides, despite his representing the state as a Republican for 29 years.

In the Democratic Senate race, which has received national attention since Specter switched parties last year after three decades in the Senate as a Republican, only 15 percent of voters are undecided, not nearly enough to switch the outcome even if they all backed Sestak.

“With less than six weeks until the May 18 primary, Sen. Arlen Specter looks to be in solid shape for the Democratic nomination. Not only would Sestak have to win every undecided vote, he also would have to take away some who say they are for Specter. While that is certainly possible, it is a steep hill for Sestak to climb because Specter is such a known quantity to Pennsylvania Democrats, who generally like him,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Specter has a 60% approval rating among likely Democratic voters. There may not be enough time for Sestak to cut into that.

Specter claimed today that he has a deal in place with Harry Reid to regain his seniority and become the next Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Seniority and committee chairmanships is sure to be a contentious topic for Senate Democrats heading into next year, should they keep the majority. In fact, some Democrats are already objecting to Specter’s deal:

But three Democrats elected to the Senate after Specter, Sens. Herb Kohl (Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.), have balked at letting him cut ahead of them in line for the gavel.

“You don’t come this far to watch people on the other team cut in front of you,” said a Democratic aide, noting that Specter served nearly 29 years in the upper chamber as a Republican.

Yesterday, a poll showed Specter trailing Republican Pat Toomey in a head-to-head matchup. So he might want to think about winning in November than his designs on the Chairman’s gavel. However, it doesn’t look like he has much to fear, at least at the moment, from Joe Sestak.

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David Dayen

David Dayen