The Rittenhouse Review

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

Monday, May 24, 2004  

Dean Backs Hoeffel Campaign

Former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Dr. Howard Dean was in Philadelphia yesterday to campaign and raise funds for U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Joe Hoeffel. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, in “A Spirited Pitch for Hoeffel’s Campaign,” by Patrick Kerkstra, that Dean and Hoeffel appeared at a labor-union rally, and later at a fund raiser in Bryn Mawr that pulled in $100,000.

According to Kerkstra, “Dean’s support, along with a scheduled June appearance with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, signals that the national Democratic party believes Hoeffel has a legitimate chance to defeat [Sen. Arlen] Specter in November -- and that should translate to increased financial support for Hoeffel.”

Glad to hear that, as it confirms the view from the ground here that Sen. Specter is vulnerable. And hats off to Rep. Pat Toomey for eroding the incumbent’s huge hoard of cash during the Republican primary. (Sen. Specter reportedly spent $14 million to eke out a victory over a little-known and rather fringey candidate.)

The Inquirer reports Sen. Specter had $2 million on hand as of the latest round of filings with the Federal Election Commission, while Rep. Hoeffel had $800,000. To that we can add the proceeds from last night’s event and other funds raised since the report. A source inside the Hoeffel campaign tells me they are above $2 million.

In another article in today’s Inquirer, “Specter Girds for Another Fight,” by Steve Goldstein, Sen. Specter says he plans to make the war in Iraq a focal point of his campaign:

Specter voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq but tried - and failed - to attach an amendment requiring President Bush to seek U.N. support before going to war. Although he still believes that U.N. involvement both prewar and postwar would have been beneficial, he refused to break with the administration.

“It is true that postwar planning has not been good, but who could have anticipated it?” he said.

Truth be told, a lot of very smart people within and outside of the Defense and State Departments anticipated the chaos, violence, and continued fighting American and allied troops -- to say nothing of civilians -- are facing each day.

So too did many opponents, skeptics, and critics who raised serious questions about the Bush administration’s war plans and the costs associated with the conflict and subsequent occupation.

Ah, but speaking of critics, Sen. Specter had this to say: “I’m not going to agree with McCain and Hagel over the Department of Defense and Bush. It’s very easy to be a critic. The military necessity there is not something on which I’m going to second-guess the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” (Emphasis added.) (To this, by way of background, Kerkstra adds: “Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) have been outspoken in their criticism of White House policy on Iraq and have accused the administration of grossly underestimating military requirements after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.”)

Sorry, Senator Specter, you’re wrong again. It’s not easy to be a critic. Ask anyone who opposed the war on Iraq before it began. Those were nasty days of mean-spirited mud-slinging, name-calling, and patriotism-questioning, the stridency of which has not abated.

The Hoeffel campaign source would seem to confirm my view that Pennsylvanians are suffering -- and I mean that -- from Specter Fatigue. Independent polls show Sen. Specter is viewed favorably by only 35 percent of those questioned, while 55 percent disapprove.

Sen. Specter’s cozying up to President George W. Bush and the lap-dog dancing with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) during the primary have undermined his standing with the general electorate, the campaign believes. And with Sen. John F. Kerry leading President Bush in polls conducted statewide, Rep. Hoeffel’s campaign should benefit.

As in the past, the most important battleground in both races will be the Philadelphia suburbs in Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks Counties. Rep. Hoeffel should do well here, I think, and the campaign source confirms a strong Democratic trend in the suburbs.

Meanwhile, there’s still talk of a third-party candidate from the right wing, a challenge that could only benefit Rep. Hoeffel.

All this is to say, to affirm in your minds, that Sen. Specter is vulnerable despite his incumbency and his fund-raising ability. More important, Rep. Hoeffel is the right candidate at the right time, focusing on Pennsylvania’s stagnant economy, job losses, and the war in Iraq, a war that has hit the people of this state quite hard in recent weeks.

The Rittenhouse Review is helping to raise funds for the Hoeffel campaign. If you can contribute, please do so by clicking here; the link will take you directly to Rep. Hoeffel’s campaign web site.

[Post-publication addendum (May 24): For Rep. Hoeffel’s view on the situation in Iraq, see the rather grandly entitled op-ed, “The Hoeffel Doctrine for Iraq,” Philadelphia Daily News.]

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