Senator Arlen Specter offered the clearest pitch yet for his reelection candidacy in the Pennsylvania primary, arguing that he was the last and perhaps only barrier standing between Democrats and a filibuster-proof majority.
And as a nod to the politics of the time, he accused his likely opponent, Club for Growth header Pat Toomey, as being cut from the same cloth as AIG executives and wanting to put Social Security on the stock market.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe, the long-serving Pennsylvania Republican said that his vote in favor of Barack Obama's stimulus package had persuaded Toomey to challenge him once again for the Senate seat.
"I had a very tough race with him last time," Specter said of the first confrontation in 2004. "It's a different year. It's a different year for him because of his background. A Wall Street trader, he was in the House of Representatives for six years, fought against regulation, wanted to deregulate everything, took a position that there ought to be individualized Social Security accounts where people could invest in the stock market. Now, Social Security is supposed to have security. If you followed Mr. Toomey's ideas, you would be where the 401ks are at about half the value. So when you take a look at his record, he's been contributing to the problem. And now he wants a promotion, he wants a bonus like those AIG guys."
Later Specter added that if Toomey were to end up the general election nominee, "you can be sure he'll lose."
"He's to the right of Rick Santorum," Specter said, referring to the former senator whose endorsement in 2004 pushed Specter over the top in that Republican primary. "Santorum lost by 18 points, spent $31 million and was a two-term Republican. And if Toomey is the nominee, there will be 60 Democrats and then when I was able to stem the tide against card check, to eliminate the secret ballots, if there's a Democrat in my place... they'll get anything they want. It will be a bulldozer."
That Specter is already launching attacks against a still-theoretical primary opponent underscores just how tight and vicious the Pennsylvania primary is likely to be. The senator actually started comparing Toomey to an AIG executive several weeks ago, when the insurance giant's bonus scandal dominated the news.
Certainly, the national Republican party is watching with a mix of interest and fight. Appearing later on the program, NRSC Chair John Cornyn was asked about the race.
"Senator Specter is still popular," he said. "He has a 61% approval rating. That's in the general election. Obviously, the primary is going to be a challenge. Hopefully [they] don't cut each other up. We need to hold on to Pennsylvania."