By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge (R) is seriously considering a 2010 bid for the Senate seat held by Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter and will make his decision in the next two weeks, according to several sources familiar with his thinking.
Ridge is perhaps the state's most decorated Republican, having held a House seat for more than a decade, spent eight years as governor and served as the first secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush. He was also mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008.
If he ran, he would almost certainly face primary opposition from former congressman Pat Toomey, a conservative who came within two points of knocking off Specter in the 2004 Republican primary. Toomey has made it clear that he is in the race regardless of whether Ridge, who is considered to be a moderate, runs.
Polling suggests that Ridge would be more competitive than Toomey against Specter, who left the GOP last week, in a general election. In a new survey by Quinnipiac University, Specter leads Ridge by a narrow margin of 46 percent to 43 percent, while he holds a 20-point margin over Toomey.
"This is a statement of the obvious fact that Pat Toomey is not yet well known by statewide general-election voters," Toomey communications director Nachama Soloveichik said about the Quinnipiac numbers. "Where he is well known, by general-election voters in the swing 15th District and by statewide Republicans, he is overwhelmingly popular."
Although Specter is seen as the favorite to win the Democratic primary because of the support he has already garnered from leading party figures, including President Obama and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, there are some in the party who don't seem intimidated.
Rep. Joe Sestak, who was leaning toward joining the Senate race before Specter switched, has been an outspoken critic of Specter's switch and the Democrats' response, telling CNN's John King that he was "disappointed in the Democratic political establishment in Washington" for its embrace of the senator.
Sestak, who was elected in 2006, has more than $3 million in his House campaign account, all of which could be transferred to a Senate bid. Those familiar with Sestak's thinking said yesterday that the congressman will wait to see how Specter votes over the next few months before making a final decision about the race.