Rep. Patrick Toomey (Pa.) plans to announce tomorrow that he will challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) -- a 22-year Senate veteran -- in next year's GOP primary.

Toomey, a three-term House member from north of Philadelphia, is nearing the end of his self-imposed term limit in the House. Some conservative groups, including the Washington-based Club for Growth, have urged him to take on Specter, whom they consider too liberal.

But Specter, 73, has the Bush administration on his side. "The White House is very interested in seeing Arlen Specter win," White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. recently told the Allentown Morning Call, a newspaper in Toomey's district. "We need his leadership in the Senate."

It may be too early for polls to mean much, but a recent survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that 61 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans approve of Specter, while 87 percent say they don't know enough about Toomey to form an opinion.

Committees Bank on Calls

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $3.26 million on telemarketing in January, according to new financial reports.

The figure dwarfs the total amount spent on telemarketing by all the other national party committees combined, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.Com. The Republican National Committee spent $721,000 on phone banks, for example, while the Democratic National Committee didn't spend a dime. The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $75,000; the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $27,000, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $43,000.

The NRCC phone bank strategy paid off handsomely for InfoCision Management Corp. of Akron, Ohio, which received all the committee's telemarketing business last month. Republican officials, meanwhile, hope for their own payoff down the road.

"We're aggressively prospecting for new donors," said one.

Support for Bush Slips

Support for President Bush has dipped to 54 percent of Americans, with pluralities disapproving of his performance on the economy and tax policy, according to a new poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

Bush continues to command a majority -- 56 percent -- in support of his handling of Iraq, unchanged since October. But only 43 percent approved of his handling of the economy, and 42 percent supported his tax policies.

More Americans (40 percent) said they would rather pay for increased military and security costs by postponing or reducing scheduled tax cuts than by cutting domestic programs (21 percent) or adding to the deficit (23 percent).

California GOP's New Leader

The California Republican Party has elected a new leader, hoping he can lift the spirits and prospects of the cash-strapped organization, which has been plagued by infighting.

Party delegates elected George "Duf" Sundheim, a Silicon Valley lawyer, over the more conservative Bill Back, in the chairmanship race, 666 to 489. Back drew widespread criticism last month after reports surfaced that he had once circulated literature suggesting the nation would have been better off if the Confederacy had won the Civil War.

Staff writers Juliet Eilperin and Dana Milbank contributed to this report.