The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, March 27, 2003  

Is He Serious, Or What?

It began on March 6 with a venting complaint by Hesiod, proprietor and author of the blog Counterspin Central, written after he found himself justifiably displeased to learn Pennsylvania Democrats appear unwilling or uninterested, at least so far, in promoting a serious challenge to the state's senior U.S. senator, Arlen Specter (R).

Hesiod's lament was followed quickly by a brief word of encouragement from Atrios of Eschaton and a "seconding nomination" from Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft. From there, it took on a life of its own, with more than three dozen bloggers expressing support within days of Hesiod's initial post.

Needless to say, the words of support from my fellow bloggers, and just as important, the same sentiments as noted in letters from readers, regarding the possibility of my challenging Specter's upcoming reelection bid -- his fourth, if you can believe it -- to the extent they took the matter seriously, have been flattering, even overwhelming.

In addition to these many expressions and messages of support, others have sent e-mail inquiring, basically, "Are you serious?", the subject at hand today.

Admittedly, this all started in a humorous vein, as something of a stunt. But things happen quickly on the internet, or in cyberspace, if you will. And I assure you events proceed still more swiftly in the blogosphere. Express an interest in challenging someone like Specter and one is almost immediately inundated with encouragement, offers of financial support, suggestions, and advice, along with more than a few of warnings about the senator's longstanding penchant for dirty politics and his election-season proclivity for closely monitoring the latest political winds.

Although I am not yet prepared to declare my candidacy, I would like to assure my fellow bloggers, my readers, and other supporters that I am taking this matter seriously. Very seriously.

During the past three weeks I have had numerous mostly informal but always intense discussions with friends and other contacts -- experienced political professionals who have managed or participated in major Senate, House, and gubernatorial campaigns -- regarding a possible candidacy. (It was not for nothing that I lived in Washington, D.C., for 11 years -- less than half the time, incidentally, Specter has made that city his home.) If nothing else, the process thus far for me has been an invaluable civics lesson. I have learned much about the political process and the nature of contemporary campaigns that I likely would not have discerned on my own.

It has been an exciting month, but one during which my most optimistic hopes quickly have become dashed by the daunting realities ahead. The obstacles facing a potential challenger to Specter are enormous. Foremost among these, of course, is money. At last report Specter had built up a war chest of more than $6 million. He'll need it. Pennsylvania campaigns are expensive: The state's media markets include Philadelphia (Nielsen Ranking: 4), Pittsburgh (21), Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York (47), Scranton-Wilkes-Barre (53), Johnstown-Altoona (96), and Erie (143). (And TV and radio spending in Philadelphia, the state's largest and most expensive market, is inefficient, with much of the candidate's advertising dollar "wasted" on residents of neighboring New Jersey and Delaware.)

It appears Specter, 72, will face an opponent in the Republican Party primary even more conservative than he -- Rep. Pat Toomey -- but few give the congressman much hope, in part because Specter enjoys the always opportunistic support of Pennsylvania's junior senator, Sen. Rick Santorum (R), and also because Specter, by virtue of his seniority, I suppose, for I can think of no other logical reason, has the backing of most of the state's Republican establishment.

Specter no doubt will avail himself of the chummy backing of his conservative Republican colleagues in the clubby halls of Congress and within a Bush administration that appreciates his recent votes supporting the launch of the 21st Century Crusades, curtailing environmental standards, cutting taxes by a mind-boggling $750 billion, and eliminating the estate tax, to name just a few. Specter can also count on continued support from the usual right-wing special interest groups whose favor he has curried for decades, including the National Rifle Association.

I have limitations of my own, of course. I have never held elective or public office of any kind. I have lived in Pennsylvania for fewer than 18 months. I lack what is called in the business -- and it is a business -- a local base. And my name recognition in Pennsylvania -- anywhere, actually -- is virtually zero. Then again, I always can hold my head high, for I have not built a spurious fame through such embarrassing acts as devising fanciful "magic bullet" theories, providing legal services for bail-jumper and convicted killer Ira Einhorn, or recklessly accusing Anita Hill of "perjury."

Surely you're joking, I suspect some readers are thinking. I assure you I am not. Specter -- and the future of Pennsylvania and the rest of this nation -- are not joking matters. And why shouldn't I be Pennsylvania's next U.S. senator? Someone has to, and if Specter -- or, even more curiously, Santorum -- can represent so great a community as the citizens of Pennsylvania, why couldn't I? Stranger things have happened.

I regret to say there is no additional statement at this time.

Thank you again for your support. And please stay tuned.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |