Salena Zito

As with anything involving Pennsylvania politics, it’s complicated.

Much of Pennsylvania’s 2010 U.S. Senate race will depend on turnout in the primary and general elections.

Sounds obvious, right? Yet in an odd turn of political and geographical shifts, the Senate candidates will have little control over the outcome.

That is largely because of fiercely competitive primary races on both sides – for Republicans, incumbent Arlen Specter versus former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey; for Democrats, state Rep. Josh Shapiro versus former Philadelphia deputy mayor Joe Torsella.

In the middle, all of the traditional party organizations will concentrate more of their money and most of their bodies on the governor’s race.

An increased turnout will help Specter in the primary. Yet his voters need one really important thing: motivation to show up at the polls. The governor’s race just might be that motivation.

Toomey’s voters will come out, no matter what. Yet to win, Toomey needs to run a solid campaign with an adult at the helm dictating strategy, not ideology.

Governor's races are defined by the personality of the candidates; voters want to like, know and trust the person who is their governor.

Issues, however, drive federal legislative races.

That helps Specter in a general election but hurts him big-time in the primary. He is seen by the general electorate as a moderate who is not driven by ideology, which is why he was comfortable flip-flopping on the union card-check issue for the short term.

The four clear, credible candidates for the U.S. Senate, in a nutshell:

Specter: A known commodity and the state’s most dominant political figure over the past 30 years. Others have come and gone, but with a lot of luck in many close elections, Arlen remains. People don't love him, but many grudgingly respect his seniority. His vulnerability is spending – and if the primary and general races are defined by earmarks and Washington’s culture of corruption, he’s in big, big trouble: He is a master of inside-politics, willing to spend, and never has been in the lower-taxes, smaller-government crowd.

Toomey: A credible, younger challenger with a clear message on earmarks and spending. However, he is not a great orator and has not proven himself able to motivate people beyond the front-bench believers who are with him because he isn't Arlen.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.
 

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