IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

ANDREA MITCHELL INTERVIEWS DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR PENNSYLVANIA SENATE, SEN. ARLEN SPECTER AND REP. JOE SESTAK TODAY ON MSNBC’S “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”

ANDREA MITCHELL SPEAKS WITH SEN. ARLEN SPECTER

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And hours from now, until the polls close here in Pennsylvania, that's when we learn whether long-time senator, veteran Arlen Specter will get a chance to run for reelection. Senator Specter joins me now right here.

Senator, thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL: It's great to be -- to have you here.

This has been tough. And you are a battler against all odds. But this one is pretty tough. Because you switched parties, and you're running in a Democratic primary. And a lot of Democrats see that as someone who is hanging around too long. What do you say to those who say your time has come, you did great service, but they want a change?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D) , PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I say the Democratic State committee wants me to be there. They've endorsed me 77 percent. I say that the black clergy, traditional Democrats want me to stay in office to continue to serve their community. AFL-CIO, another 76 percent endorsed me. So, I think I've got a lot of good company with the Democrats.

Andrea, I think that the key to this primary is who can best beat the Republican in the fall, a tough guy like Toomey. He might (INAUDIBLE) before and can beat again.

And what you see happening across the country is that the TEA Party organization has taken over. Maine, they took over the platform. They want to eliminate the Department of Education. We know what happened to Bob Bennett, we know what happened to Chris, they drove him out of the Republican party. And if we're not careful, if you don't feel the strongest candidate, frankly like Arlen Specter, they're going to take over and want to eliminate (INAUDIBLE) -- they want to go back to the gold standard. It'd be an 18th century America.

MITCHELL: Isn't the White House signaling that it thinks that Sestak would actually be a stronger candidate. Younger, more vigorous -- that's the campaign he's running -- against Pat Toomey than you? The president has done a lot for you. (INAUDIBLE) calls, commercials, but he isn't here now, he wasn't here to close it. He didn't try to do a big rally in Philadelphia yesterday to turn out that vote.

SPECTER: Andrea, he's on every few minutes on all the TV stations. You can't live on the planet Earth and not see Barack Obama for Arlen Specter.

But when you talk about Sestak being more vigorous, you must be smoking (INAUDIBLE). Did you see the small debate?

(CROSSTALK)

SPECTER: Did you see the small debate? If you didn't see it, John Mayer, the moderator, wrote about how strong and vibrant I was and how weak he was. You saw that town meeting in (INAUDIBLE). that TEA party guy rushed up at me with his fist clinched, security wanted to throw him out. I said no, no. And I fought him right there on the spot verbally. When you talk about vigor, it's on Arlen Specter's side.

MITCHELL: Will you support Joe Sestak if he is the winner?

SPECTER: Absolutely.

MITCHELL: Are you a true blue Democrat? You're not going to switch again on us?

(LAUGHTER)

SPECTER: I was asked – you’re the second, Andrea. I was asked by CNN that on Sunday. And immediately I responded, sure it's not going to happen, but if it should happen, of course I’d support it. When Sestak was asked the question, he wouldn't agree to support me. And I'll tell you, that could -- that'll cost him a lot of votes. Might cost him the election on a tight election.

Wait, wait. The object is not for Arlen Specter or Sestak. The object is beating Toomey in the fall --

MITCHELL: But some people say this is a referendum on you, Senator. And the Sestak campaign took off when it started running that commercial, showing you with George W. Bush.

SPECTER: Well, that commercial was taken out of context. They took the part where I said to be re-elected, but didn't take the part where I said in order to continue to get other people to hold their jobs. Ed Rendell, the governor, went on it and called it the worst kind of politics.

It was a sneak attack, below the belt, and when you take a look at my casting the vote for the stimulus -- listen -- I had a clear shot at reelection. And I stayed with the obstructionist Republican caucus.

Toomey had decided to run for governor. I had a clear shot at being re-elected. And I said on the Senate floor that saving this country from a depression was more important than my re-election.

MITCHELL: With all of the things Sestak has done, by your likes, the kind of campaign he's run – I mean, you say he's been really negative about you, although you certainly went after his military record. But why would you support him in the fall if he wins?

SPECTER: Because I want to beat Toomey. Because beating the TEA Party gang is more important than who does the beating. And has he been negative? Has he ever! Called me a dead man walking, refused to endorse me. Would prefer to see Toomey as the Republican --

MITCHELL: Sestak has been trying to explain "dead man walking." He was talking about the political context. Do you think he was trying to allude to your health issues? The fact that you're a survivor twice of cancer.

SPECTER: I can't tell you what was in his mind. Sometimes he rambles --

MITCHELL: Was it a low blow?

(LAUGHTER)

SPECTER: At the ankles.

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL: Arlen Specter. Well, we have to tell you, we're wishing all the candidates good luck today. And it's very good of you to come out and fight back and talk to the voters through us. And thank you very much.

SPECTER: Andrea, this election is in the balance. There's some people watching this show. If you're in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania, come out and vote for Arlen Specter. Because the -- thank you for pointing me at the right camera -- because the determination will be exactly how the vote comes out. And AFL-CIO, African-American, strong Democrats who want to beat Toomey in the fall, vote for Arlen Specter.

MITCHELL: Well, as a matter of fact, I was just talking to some Democratic party activists up in the 52nd ward. They say, by their count, the turnout is only 8.2 percent. As you know, that's the largest ward in the city. So, the rain is not doing you any favors today.

SPECTER: Well, listen, I'll play with the cards I'm dealt. I'm confident we'll do it.

MITCHELL: Thank you very much.

SPECTER: Great being with you, Andrea.

MITCHELL: Great being with you. Thank you.

*************

[ANDREA MITCHELL SPEAKS WITH REP. JOE SESTAK]

ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST:  Congressman Joe Sestak trying to oust long time Senator Arlen Specter. 

Congressman Sestak joins me now. 

We just talked to Senator Specter and Governor Rendell and other supporters here.  You, the challenger.  One of the things that you have been making very is that you think that Arlen Specter has stayed around too long, that it's time for a change. 

REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), RUNNING IN SENATE PRIMARY:  Well, I think there's been a generation down there that somehow believes that holding on to your job might even be more important than working for policies that help families. 

I respect Arlen Specter.  He's done some good things, particularly items like NIH funding and we need to respect that.  And I honestly do disagree that one might switch a job because, as he told us his prospects were bleak against Pat Toomey.  He has also switched positions on public option.  At the end of the day, he (INAUDIBLE) to advance the Republican agenda of George Bush.  I'm a Democrat our of core beliefs and core convictions --

MITCHELL:  Congressman, he voted against George Bush time and time again.  I mean, I think that it's very clear that there is a strong record that Arlen Specter voted against Republicans as often as he voted against Democrats.  He was pretty much an Independent all along. 

SESTAK:  The actual fact is that on 23 percent of the time during the eight years of the administration of George Bush, he voted with Democrats. 

Remember what Majority Leader Reid said one time?  Arlen Specter's always there for us when we don't need him.  On those key-defining votes like the tax cuts or the tragic war in Iraq.  He supported Dick Cheney and George Bush. 

But you're also right, even before then.  When Democrats, as well as Republicans, voted to deregulate Wall Street and let them gamble with the homes of our seniors -- that word “derivatives.”  Those weren't derivatives, those were savings of our seniors that now have to work at 75 or 80.  In short, I think his judgment -- while I respect him -- is wrong. 

He should've been taking care of small businesses, not the --

MITCHELL:  What about the fact that he voted with President Obama on both the stimulus bill and health care? 

SESTAK:  I respect that. 

However, how about if he hadn't voted with George Bush for his tax and economic policies?  For those derivatives, we never would've needed an economics stimulus bill. 

And then, Andrea, remember how he first voted -- before the economic stimulus bill -- for John McCain’s $420 billion amendment that would've taken all the stimulus out except for corporation tax cuts?  And then he said at least I took $100 billion out of President Obama's economic stimulus bill.  Remember $3 billion of that -- excuse me -- $1.5 billion of that would've closed Pennsylvania.  Governor Rendell who just left here, would've closed half his deficit. 

According to Moodys.com, over 9,000 more Americans are unemployed because he took that $100 billion out.  He set the house on fire, then he brought half that hose to the fire to put it out. 

MITCHELL:  I think it's a little difficult to blame one senator for something that was a consensus view of a lot of people. 

SESTAK:  Yes, well he is claiming he's responsible for that bill and he stood tall.  I wish he'd stood tall against George Bush much more often than only 23 percent of the time. 

MITCHELL:  If he wins today, will you support him? 

SESTAK:  I've told everybody that I will do anything, legally or morally that's right, anything to beat Pat Toomey.  But you know me, Andrea, I come from a background in the Military.  When you go to war as I have, and led men and women in it, as well as here at home in this campaign, you always tell people you're going to win.  But at the end of the day, I will do whatever it takes to beat Pat Toomey, who I’ve already debated twice. 

MITCHELL:  I’ve got to ask you about something you said to some reporters after one rally where you referred to Specter as a dead man walking.  And some people have taken an offense at that because he's a survivor of cancer twice.  And people feel that you really were alluding to his health issues and his age. 

SESTAK:  But you know me by now.  I was asked a question about Pat Toomey, Congressman Pat Toomey, and who could beat him prospectively.  And I said, look, Arlen Specter never gets more than 1/3 of the electorate for him in that election.  I beat him by 12 in the latest poll.  Excuse me -- I'm tied with him.  He loses by 12 points.  And that's what that was said --

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  But the fact that you referred to him as a dead man walking. 

Have you been not only insensitive but signaling in a very strong and nasty way about his health issues? 

SESTAK:  Absolutely not.  And, Andrea, you've been here working with him since the '60s.  You know very well that that -- and you know me because we talk about Mrs. Clinton a lot, and all.  I very much said it in the context of he will take the Democratic ticket down if he happens to be in the top of the ticket when we go against Pat Toomey.  And it was very well said. 

You've noticed that for two and three weeks, our ads were 100 percent positive.  Unfortunately, even before we went up on the air, he started his negative ads.  Look, we’ve run a very positive campaign and never once mentioned anything except he's got a lot of years down there in Congress where he kind of feels politics at times should make decisions.  I don't agree with that.  I think principles should triumph over politics. 

MITCHELL:  Why has Barack Obama endorsed him then? 

SESTAK:  I don’t begrudge the President at all for the deal he made.  It's pretty tough down there in Washington.  You cover it, you know. 

But that's where the Democratic establishment got off track.  Making a deal.  We seize the White House (INAUDIBLE).  At the end of the day, I still want to be his strong ally.  But I'm not a yes man.  And number two, Washington, D.C. cannot tell us Pennsylvanians who we have to live for, for the next six years.  We've been savaged by the policies of George Bush that Arlen Specter supported.  And therefore, we will choose our own Senator.

MITCHELL:  Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. 

SESTAK:  Thanks for having me, Andrea.

MITCHELL:  Good luck today in the election. 

END