Sat in on a somewhat unusual conference call with Joe Sestak, who will be running against Arlen Specter in next year's Senate race, though he hasn't said so officially yet.
I've posted an audio clip to give you a flavor of Sestak's talk with reporters from around the state. (Audio quailty is poor, sorry.) As you'll hear, Sestak said he was running to give voters a choice, instead of just compelling them to go along with the "establishment" that is backing Specter. Sestak repeatedly dinged Specter for being a reliable vote for George Bush, and thereby helping to create the country's current "savage recession."
Sestak acknowledged that most voters don't know him -- a Quinnipiac poll shows that fully 70 Pennsylvanians don't have an opinion of him one way or the other. But Sestak said he was better positioned than Ned Lamont had been at this point in his campaign: Lamont, you may recall, ran against Connecticut's Joe Lieberman -- largely on the basis of Lieberman's pro-Bush stance on defense matters.
Like Lamont, Sestak has become the candidate of choice for Netroots folks who are sick of Specter's machinations. Still, this was maybe not a great analogy for Sestak to use: Lamont beat Lieberman in the Democratic primary, but lost to him in the general election, when Lieberman ran as an Independent.
I don't know much about Sestak, who's from out east. (Though on a couple of occasions during the conference call, he did kindly remind everyone on the call that he served in the Navy.) I gathered, however, that some Philly-area reporters are less than entirely enamored of how this campaign is rolling out. In fact, one of my favorite moments in the call came when a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter said the race felt "personal between you and Arlen."
Reading over earlier statements, she said, "feels and sounds to me like mid-campaign mudslinging. And sir, you haven't even filed. Aren't you putting the cart before the horse?"
"I don't know; I've only been in politics for three years," Sestak replied. "So you better ask somebody like Arlen; he's been in for 30 years. He's probably a better assessor about where we are in the campaign."
If nothing else, Sestak promises to make next year fun.