ABC News' Rick Klein reports: President Obama has opted against making a final visit to Pennsylvania on behalf of Sen. Arlen Specter -- even though he'll be flying over the Keystone State for an event in Youngstown, Ohio, on primary day tomorrow.
Would it make a difference?
On “Top Line” today, Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., a strong backer of Specter, said a late visit by the president could mean a percentage point in Specter’s tight race against Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa.
But he said the president’s image – he’s featured in a Specter campaign ad that’s getting wide play in the Keystone State – is already getting the president’s support for Specter plenty of visibility.
“It might jack up turnout, so it might affect 1 percent of the overall vote, but probably not,” Rendell said. “People know where the president stands. I mean guys, you have to be here and watch TV. I love Barack Obama, but I'm sick and tired of seeing him on TV.”
Rendell dismissed the fact that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (who’s in Philadelphia tonight, to speak at his daughter’s commencement -- not for a campaign event) are staying away from closing rallies as “just inside baseball.”
“President Obama's ad for Arlen Specter’s probably on TV about 20 times a day in almost every market in the state. That's far more effective than one quick appearance,” he said. “I think they've made their position abundantly clear, and it’s one thing I remind voters of.
“This business of, ‘Arlen Specter switched parties just to save his job’ -- hey, myself the governor, the mayor of Philadelphia Mike Nutter, Vice President Biden and the president of the United States have been after Arlen to switch parties for a couple of years, and in my case almost for a decade. So Arlen didn't switch to save his job -- he switched in fact because he made a courageous vote on the stimulus which saved the president's stimulus program and I think saved the country from an even worse economic collapse. And it was a courageous vote. And that's why he switched, because the Republican Party had no time for him anymore.”
Still, Rendell said he is convinced that Sestak would be a reliable Democratic vote in the Senate. (As ABC’s Jake Tapper reported over the weekend , the president’s political operation is trying to elect Specter over Sestak in part to ensure “that allies of the President are elected.”)
“I think both Sen. Specter and Congressman Sestak would support the Obama agenda wholeheartedly. I don't think it's any difference there,” he said. “I think in the end, in November, Arlen Specter's a much stronger candidate because there are literally hundreds of thousands of moderate, progressive Republicans in Southeast Pennsylvania, particularly in the Philadelphia suburbs, who've been used to voting for Arlen Specter for 30 years, and who I think are not going to abandon him in the general election, particularly against an extreme right wing candidate like [former] Congressman [Pat] Toomey.”
Rendell said Specter is suffering from the same kind of anti-incumbent backlash that ousted Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, last weekend, in his bid for another term.
“Arlen Specter never governed Republican or Democrat,” he said. “He helped us and helped us big time. He delivers whether it’s a Republican area, Democratic area -- it doesn't matter who is asking him. He's been one of the most effective senators I think in the history of the United States Senate. Why would we change?”
He also gives Sestak some credit on at least one campaign move:
“He made one terrific decision: He hired The Campaign Group as his media consultants, which happen to be my media consultants for every election I've run in,” he said. “But more importantly they did an incredible job. If Doc Sweitzer and Neil Oxman were in Washington, DC, they'd be the No. 1 Democratic group in the country.
“Their last ad, the ad about President Bush with Arlen Specter, was an incredible ad. I think it was actually a disingenuous ad. To be honest, I would never have let them run an ad like that for me … It was a disingenuous ad, but it was enormously effective. And it was countered somewhat with Sen. Specter’s ad with the president which was a good ad, particularly when the president ends the ad by saying, ‘I love Arlen Specter!’
“But it was serve, return of serve, and it was tough. And Joe made a very good call in hiring them and he's listened to them. And to that extent he's been a good candidate.”
We also previewed all of tomorrow’s big contests with Chris Cillizza, who writes “The Fix” blog at WashingtonPost.com, as part of the “Top Line” “Post Politics” segment.