Former Rep. Pat Toomey is considering a renewed challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in next year's GOP Senate primary.
His decision, announced in a statement yesterday, represents a switch in plans for the prominent conservative, who had previously said he was considering a bid for the Republican nomination for governor. His decision comes after Mr. Specter joined Maine's two Republican senators last month in providing the only Republican votes for the Obama administration's massive stimulus package. If Mr. Toomey were to take another run at the incumbent, it would cheer many Republicans who have long been critical of Mr. Specter over his moderate to liberal positions on social and economic issues.
Mr. Specter responded to the news of a possible rematch with the Satchel Paige quote he's frequently repeated in response to questions on potential opposition.
"Never look behind, somebody may be gaining on you," the veteran lawmaker said in a statement released by his office. "I'm running my own race with blinders. I'm not looking over my shoulder at who my opponent may be."
A renewed Toomey challenge would be welcomed not just by conservatives, but by the many Democrats who covet the Specter seat for their party. A tough primary would force the incumbent to spend money that would otherwise be available for the general election. And it would have the potential to push Mr. Specter to the right in an attempt to woo potential supporters of the conservative Toomey.
Mr. Specter's campaign committee had more than $5 million at the end of 2008. But Mr. Toomey -- outspent 5 to 1 by Mr. Specter in 2004 -- may be significantly more competitive next year on the strength of the national associations he has nurtured leading the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.
Their rematch would also be determined by a Republican electorate that since 2004 has suffered significant defections among some of the more moderate voters that have traditionally been a key constituency for the former Philadelphia prosecutor. With Pennsylvania's closed primary system, those former Republicans now registered as Democrats would not be able to support Mr. Specter unless they once again switched their party registrations.
So far, Joseph M. Torsella, the former president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, is the only announced Democratic challenger for the Specter seat, although a handful of other Democrats have expressed interest in the race.