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Opinion: Arlen Specter’s identity crisis -- ads by Bush in 2004, Obama in 2010: What will Pennsylvania voters think?

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Pennsylvania voters go to the polls May 18 to select candidates for the U.S. Senate. The Republican winner is a given -- ‘tea party’ favorite and former Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, a onetime Republican congressman who came close to winning the seat six years ago. In fact, Toomey’s popularity with the GOP base is one reason that the incumbent Republican senator -- Arlen Specter -- switched parties. Asked last year why he was becoming a Democrat, Specter made no bones about his motive, ‘to be reelected.’

But now the 80-year-old Specter is in a spirited primary fight against Democrat Joe Sestak, a former Navy two-star rear admiral who represents the Philadelphia suburbs in Congress. Despite Specter’s enormous money advantages, Sestak has now pulled ahead in some polls.

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Sestak wasted no time Monday in undercutting Specter by pointing out that the then-Republican senator voted against Elena Kagan, just nominated for the Supreme Court, when the Senate voted on her confirmation as solicitor general last year.

On Tuesday, Specter plans to respond by running a TV ad reminding Pennsylvania’s Democrats that President Obama has endorsed him.

The only problem is that Sestak has a dueling ad up pointing out that President Bush made almost the same speech endorsing Specter in 2004. See for yourself.

As Sestak’s ad concludes, ‘Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job -- his ... not yours.’

-- Johanna Neuman

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