Though Rep. Pat Toomey may draw the more ideologically driven wing of the Republican party to the polls for the senatorial primary on April 27, political analysts agree that four-term incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter stands a better chance of winning the party's nomination.
"It's about who are Republicans in Pennsylvania," according to Larry Ceisler, a Democratic political analyst. "They're fighting over the heart and soul of the party. ... Pennsylvania is not a right-wing state. Specter's a moderate ... Toomey's a fire-breathing right-winger."
Specter could lose his seat if the far right-wing conservatives rally behind Toomey in this month's primary. While Toomey works to bring these voters to the polls, Specter believes his Senate record has earned him the loyalty of Republican voters throughout the state.
Specter is known for his center-right positions on issues such as abortion and foreign policy. Toomey is recognized as a hard-line conservative.
Joe Sterns, Toomey's spokesman, said that Specter has "fallen out of favor with the overwhelming majority of the Republican voters who do not define themselves as liberal."
"It's difficult for a Republican to win an election statewide if they have alienated ... the base of the party," he added.
Specter's campaign manager Chris Nicholas said his candidate is running on a "record of accomplishment for the state."
Most recent polls show Specter in the lead, but the gap between the two candidates has been shrinking in the last couple of weeks.
The candidates' places on the continuum of conservatism will likely influence the votes of at least some of Pennsylvania Republican citizens.
"The unfortunate reality of it is that the extreme conservative element of the party digs their heels in on certain limited issues" such as abortion, according to Vito Canuso, chairman of the Philadelphia Republican Committee.
Canuso added that despite his liberal leanings, Specter is unlikely to be defeated on the basis of his lack of hard-line conservative stances. Instead, analysts said voters would focus on Specter's track record in the Senate.
He has "a lot of influence within the Senate," said Chris Patusky, deputy director and chief operating officer at the Fels Institute of Government.
That influence is magnified "because he's a swing voter" who can create bipartisan coalitions, he added.
Additionally, Specter has the support of both President George W. Bush and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), and would be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if he wins, Ceisler said.
As a result, "there are a lot of conservatives who don't agree with Specter on a lot of issues and are going to hold their nose and vote for him," he added.
National security, the economy and education are expected to be the most influential factors in the election.
These issues are also likely to resonate with area college students, analysts said. "It's college students who are seeing their friends and classmates go off to war,"and Washington D.C.'s handling of foreign policy will largely shape the U.S. economy, Ceisler said.
Still, the impact of college students who tend to be moderate in their views on the election will probably be minimal, Patusky said. If they do vote, however, Patusky said he expects that "a good turnout among students would help Specter."Comments powered by Disqus
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