Friday, April 30, 2010

Public service reminder: Sestak/Specter

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 7:07 PM

Just a reminder that tomorrow night, Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter will be having, like, their only debate in this entire political campaign.

That's one less debate than the Democrats running for governor had yesterday alone. There have been roughly two dozen debates by the gubernatorial candidates so far.

The lack of action in the Senate campaign is Specter's doing, of course. But tomorrow's debate airs at 7 p.m.; it's taking place in Philadelphia, but you can see it here on WTAE-TV, or on the statewide cable network, PCN. (Live streaming here.)

But while Specter has helped insure that there is not much old-media attention paid to this campaign, I've been surprised at how little attention Sestak has gotten from new media. Last year, Markos Moulitsas -- the guy behind the DailyKos Web site -- was spilling over with enthusiasm for Sestak. But in recent months, there's hardly been any commentary about, or enthusiasm for, the PA Senate race at DailyKos itself. Most of the Netroots' energy seems to have shifted from Sestak/Specter to a Senate race in Arkansas, where Bill Halter is challenging Blanche Lincoln from the left.

What's going on? I asked Moulitsas himself, and here's what he had to say, via e-mail

Sestak lost a lot of energy on the Left when he move Right on Afghanistan. Then Specter refused to play the role of villain (which both [Connecticut Senator Joe] Lieberman and Blanche Linoln have played to perfection), by becoming the most dependable Democrat. No one may believe the conversion, but it offers little material for his foes to attack.Finally, Sestak's strategy of waiting until the last minute to begin his media war gave us little material with which to craft a hero. 

So Sestak killed a lot of early excitement with this Afghanistan position, then became invisible, all the while Specter eliminated virtually all lines of attack.

Sestak has raised eyebrows by criticizing a key element of Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy. As the Post-Gazette put it late last year:

Mr. Sestak, a ... favorite of progressives, sounded much like a Republican this week in discussing Afghanistan, attacking President Barack Obama for committing in advance to a pullout date after his 30,000-troop surge

As for the second part of Moulitsas' criticism ... used to be that progressives took comfort in the fact that Sestak had $5 million sitting in the bank. Nowadays, they're wondering what's taken him so long to start spending it. If Sestak loses, this might be the reason why: He faulted Obama for threatening to end the Afghan campaign too soon ... while Sestak himself didn't began campaiging until too late. 



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