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Who Runs for Senate if Voinovich Retires?
Toomey, a conservative who held the 15th District seat in eastern Pennsylvania for three terms, came within 7,000 votes of defeating Specter in a 2004 Republican primary and is weighing the possibility of taking on the incumbent again. He is expected to make a decision by the end of March.
If Toomey takes a pass, the Democrats' task gets more difficult, as Specter can continue to stockpile cash -- $5.4 million in the bank as of Sept. 30 -- and wait as Democrats sort themselves out.
And, somewhat surprisingly given the Democratic nature of the state, the names after Matthews on the Democratic side have a ways to go to compete with Specter. "It's a strong field in terms of talent and ability, but it's fairly weak in terms of statewide name identification," said Mark Nevins, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic operative.
Who makes up that field? Here's The Fix's quick handicapping -- based on conversations with smart Democratic operatives in Pennsylvania and D.C.:
Joe Torsella: Torsella's name might be familiar to political junkies, as he ran a well-funded but ultimately unsuccessful primary against Rep. Allyson Schwartz in 2004 for the open 13th Congressional District seat. Torsella went on to raise the money for and then run the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. An X factor in Torsella's favor? He is very close to Gov. Ed Rendell, having served as a deputy mayor when Rendell ruled Philadelphia.
Allyson Y. Schwartz: The congresswoman has run for the Senate -- she lost a primary to then-Rep. Ron Klink in 2000 -- and has made no secret of her interest in another statewide bid. Schwartz would almost certainly have the financial and organizational support of Emily's List, a powerful chit in her favor, particularly in a Democratic primary. Schwartz's hurdle is whether she can sell herself as a candidate outside the Philadelphia media market.
Jack Wagner: The state's auditor general is the lone candidate seriously considering the race who comes from the western part of the state, a huge advantage in a state where geography looms large. Wagner is mulling a run for governor, and there is some sense among political sharps that he will ultimately take that route.
Reps. Joe Sestak and Patrick J. Murphy: Sestak isn't interested; Murphy has been more coy but ultimately will stay out, our sources say.
Josh Shapiro: Shapiro, a former congressional aide who is a member of the state House, is seen as one of the party's rising stars. But he would almost certainly defer to any of the names above, and, if Schwartz runs, Shapiro would probably be a candidate for her House seat.
Landing a client such as California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner -- with considerable personal wealth and an eye on being governor of the Golden State -- can make an election cycle for a media consulting firm. That's why Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer -- the principals of the Stevens and Schriefer Group -- are smiling a lot these days. Poizner announced that Stevens and Schriefer, who worked for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and then former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney during the Republican presidential primaries, would handle his ad strategy in what is shaping up to be a terrific -- and terrifically expensive -- GOP primary against former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman in 2010.