Salena Zito

If the still-undeclared Toomey campaign can get Luksik out (which appears unlikely) and expand turnout in central Pennsylvania, Toomey can move from his 2004 primary vote tally of 47 percent to 51 percent. But those are no small tasks.

If the math goes in Specter’s favor, what about the general election?

A very ambitious state representative, Josh Shapiro, is on the verge of challenging him. A Montgomery County Democrat mega-star, he has all the hallmarks that Specter typically tries to run on: pragmatism, smarts, aggression.

A lot of Democrats respect Specter’s service, but elections are almost always about tomorrow. And the state’s 1.2 million new Democrats have no history of voting for Specter.

Shapiro would have to give up his seat – and his meteoric rise in state house leadership – to run. Why take that political risk?

It's pretty simple: Very few opportunities exist for him to seek higher office at the moment. He lives in U.S. Rep. Allison Schwartz’s district, the local state senator is going nowhere, and Shapiro already supports Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato’s bid for governor.

While Shapiro has little name recognition beyond the Southeast, Singer says his reputation as a reformer with fresh ideas and energy will work in his favor.

And Dan Fee, Gov. Ed Rendell's former campaign spokesman, believes geographical identification won’t matter in the 2010 general election. “There has been such a population shift benefiting the Southeast, where Shapiro is widely known and respected, the sheer numbers alone outweigh everything west of Philly and her collar counties.”

Still, longtime Philadelphia consultant Larry Ceisler is skeptical of Specter losing any of these races: “With the exception of Gov. Rendell, I don't think anyone could defeat Arlen Specter in a general election … and I do not think Toomey or Luksik could defeat any Democrat in a general election.”

Adds Ceisler, who thinks the country is at risk if either party wins 60 Senate seats: “For the GOP to put what would be a relatively safe seat in jeopardy is beyond me.”


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.