Cold Water on the Sestak Boomlet


From an anon longtime TPM Reader …

There’s some sort of weird, collective spate of wishful thinking/lunacy going on. Sestak will not be running for the Senate in 2010.

Some background. I’m a constituent of Sestak’s, and grew up in the district. I’ve given him some money, and have worked with him on a few occasions. He’s an incredibly smart guy, a good Democrat, very ambitious, and a real asset to the district, the Democratic party and the nation. He certainly is more in tune with the national party than is Specter.

First, Sestak’s claim that he somehow took on the entrenched powers when he ran in 2006 is ridiculous. There was a Democratic candidate already in the race, Bryan Lentz. Lentz, unlike Sestak, actually lived in the district. He had been in the Army Reserves in Iraq. When Sestak left the Navy and started talking about moving back to the area and running for the House, the local Democratic party pushed Lentz out of the race. This was the correct decision; as a former admiral, Sestak had instant credibility and got huge press.Lentz made some noises about staying in, but in the end saw the handwriting on the wall and ran for the state House and won. So for Sestak to complain now that the party is pushing him out is a bit rich. 

Also, Sestak had Bill Clinton behind him, from his time working at the White House. This was a huge plus in terms of both fundraising and name recognition; Clinton did at least one fundraiser in the area for Sestak. Not too many insurgents have a former president behind them.

Second, Obama doesn’t owe Sestak much. Sestak backed Hillary, presumably because he owed a lot to the Clintons. Nothing wrong with that. The district ended up going for Obama.

Finally, how is going Sestak going to beat Specter in the Democratic primary? Let me give you four names: Obama, Biden, Rendell, Casey. They’ve all put themselves on the line for Specter. There’s no way they’re going to let Specter lose. They’ll shut off the money for Sestak, and Joe can’t count on the Clinton connection for fundraising help this time. Plus Specter is very well known statewide, and Sestak isn’t.

Finally, think about about this from the national party’s point of view. They would love to get Snowe and/or Collins to switch over. A big Democratic win in 2010 makes that more likely. But not if they see Specter going down to defeat in a Democratic primary.

Sestak is a very smart, very ambitious guy. But he has absolutely no chance. I’m sure he feels that he got ripped off by Specter’s move, and he has a point. But there’s nothing to do about it now except be the good soldier (sailor?). Maybe he gets a shot if Specter dies or retires in a few years, although that assumes there’s a Democratic governor in Pennsylvania after Rendell. Maybe he gets a cabinet spot down the line. Heck, he’d look great on a national ticket at some point–I thought he was a good dark horse VP choice.

Also, there’s no guarantee his seat stays Democratic if he leaves the House to run for the Senate. 


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of