Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) hasn't been shy about criticizing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) for switching parties last week, but his harshest words came last night in an interview with TPMDC: "He left the fight," said the former admiral and highest ranking military man ever to serve in Congress. "In the military, we just don't leave fights."
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Sestak's shot at Specter comes amid grassroots grumbling that the deal Democratic leaders struck to get Specter to defect from the GOP cost the party a shot at putting a real liberal in the seat in 2010.
"I can't figure out...why the deal was done," Sestak told me, saying he's concerned that the party was so quick to embrace Specter for reasons of "expediency," and without regard to the needs of Pennsylvania voters. "It isn't Washington's prerogative to tell us what to do," Sestak insisted.
I asked him whether he'd been on the receiving end of establishment pressure -- from people like Vice President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell -- to stay out of the race, and he insisted, "I haven't heard from anyone."
While Democrats from the While House on down might be trying to keep the Democratic primary field clear for Specter, they might not necessarily mind the fact that, for the time being, Sestak is applying pressure on Specter to move left. By keeping the door open to challenging Specter in the Democratic primary, Sestak may serve to nudge Specter further than he might otherwise have gone. Yesterday, Sestak told Greg Sargent that if Specter "doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in" to a primary fight against him.