Rep. Joe Sestak said he learned an important lesson from the Massachusetts special election that resulted in Sen. Scott Brown taking over a seat held by the Democrats for a generation, and he’s sounding pretty confident that voters may reach the same conclusion and nominate him on Tuesday.
“Massachusetts said it best, ‘A pox on both your houses.’ They voted for change in politics,” Sestak told me in an interview tonight on the eve of Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary Tuesday. Sestak peppers his political talk with critiques of Sen. Arlen Specter’s long record as a Republican using language you’d expect from a retired Navy admiral. “When you run a ship aground you’re relieved for cause,” Sestak said.
He maintains he’s the better general election candidate to keep the seat for the Democrats this fall, saying that since he’s running against the party establishment voters will reward him as an independent voice should he win the nomination. The TPM Poll Average of this race has Sestak in the lead with 45.3 percent and Specter with 42.6 percent.
Sestak, who said he awoke today at 4:15 a.m. to begin campaigning, said he sees his own voters energized while more and more undecideds choose him over Specter. He said the Republican-turned-Democrat is a known quantity so Pennsylvania voters had long ago formed hard opinions. “I had to let them know who I was … his time has come and gone and it’s time for a new generation,” Sestak told me.
Is that a dog whistle to remind voters Specter is 80? “Not at all,” Sestak protested.
“I’m talking about a generation of politicians who have been in Washington D.C. for years,” he said.
As robocalls from President Obama calling Specter a key ally flood into Democrats’ homes across the Keystone state, and the DNC steps up efforts for the senator, Sestak said he’s heard nothing from the White House. Sestak bucked his party’s calls for him to drop the challenge to Specter (despite being recruited to run against Specter in a general election the first place) and is facing the entire Democratic machine from Gov. Ed Rendell on down. But Sestak said he’d be “humbled and honored” to get Obama’s endorsement if he wins Tuesday.
“I want to be his strongest ally but I’m obviously not a yes man,” Sestak said. “The president wants a real Democrat. … I’m the only Democrat in this primary who voted for him.”
Sestak said today on MSNBC that Specter “is literally a flight risk” who can’t win the general election against Pat Toomey (R).
Sestak claims in the end he thinks voters will evaluate which of the Democrats they most trust. Of course, he thinks he’s the trustworthy one, saying he’s the only one willing to lose his job for principles while Specter switched parties to save his seat.
“People really want to believe again.”
Additional reporting by Ben Frumin