Video: Specter: Swap about ‘more than being re-elected’

NBC News and news services
updated 5/4/2009 4:12:11 PM ET 2009-05-04T20:12:11

Sen. Arlen Specter boosted his 2010 re-election prospects by switching to the Democratic Party, but may be vulnerable if the GOP can persuade former Gov. Tom Ridge to run, according to a poll released Monday.

The survey by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University showed Specter, as a Democrat, with a large lead — 53 percent to 33 percent — over former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, a Republican.

But the poll also found Specter, 79, and Ridge, the former governor and former national homeland security secretary, virtually tied. Ridge, who now runs a Washington-based consulting firm, has not commented publicly on whether he is interested in running for Senate.

In announcing his party switch last week, Specter said he had concluded that his chance of defeating Toomey in next spring's primary was bleak. He said he did not want his moderate record decided by a Republican electorate that has tilted more conservative in recent years.

The poll did not attempt to gauge Toomey's prospects of winning the party's nomination in a GOP field that is still taking shape. Toomey lost the 2004 primary to Specter by only 17,000 votes out of 1 million cast. Still, when the poll asked Republican respondents their opinion of Toomey, 57 percent said they didn't know enough about him.

'Run for his money'
Ridge "is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give (Specter) a run for his money," said Clay Richards, assistant director of the university's polling institute.

Ridge hasn't returned messages left at his office last week and Monday.

Specter, who is seeking a sixth term, faces opposition in the Democratic primary, although he has been warmly embraced by the party's national leaders. President Barack Obama has offered to campaign and raise funds for him.

Philadelphia-area civic leader Joe Torsella has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination and U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., has said he may run.

Specter said he had received no assurances that other Democratic primary candidates would step aside.

"I did not ask for it. It wasn't offered and it's unrealistic. I don't expect people to get out because I'm in," he told WGAL-TV on Monday during a meeting with students and faculty at the Hershey Medical Center.

Quinnipiac conducted telephone interviews with 1,120 Pennsylvania voters between Wednesday and Sunday. The survey carries a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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