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Question in Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary: Could Sestak get out vote?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010; A06

For all its knife-edge drama at the close, the Senate matchup in Pennsylvania between incumbent Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak was sleepy until the final three weeks. Specter had a wide lead, and Sestak remained unknown outside his congressional district in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Then Sestak began advertising on television and started to creep up in the polls. The race became too close to call after a 30-second attack spot that showed Specter with three conservative icons: former president George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Footage followed of Specter saying, "My change in party will enable me to be reelected." The tag line: Specter switched to "save one job -- his, not yours."

The latest Quinnipiac University poll, completed Sunday, showed the two candidates locked in a statistical tie. But it also showed that 33 percent viewed Specter unfavorably, three times the number who viewed Sestak unfavorably.

Sestak was elected to Congress in 2006, defeating Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) after Weldon's house was raided in a federal corruption probe late in the contest.

Before entering public life, Sestak spent more than three decades in the Navy. He also served in the Clinton administration as a defense adviser on the National Security Council and commanded aircraft carrier operations in Afghanistan.

Upon entering Congress, the retired rear admiral became the highest-ranking former military officer ever to serve in Congress.

Known as a talker, Sestak frequently appears on cable news shows and rarely turns down a request for an interview. A notoriously hard worker, he logs long hours and requires long hours of his staff as well.

Sestak has also shown himself to be a prodigious fundraiser. He built up his campaign account to more than $4 million before entering the race against Specter.

-- From staff and wire reports

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