ABC News' Rick Klein reports: With President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden lining up against his opponent -- though not, apparently, with a last-minute campaign visit -- Rep. Joe Sestak has a message for the Democratic establishment:
“Pennsylvanians were slammed by the establishment of the last decade under George Bush, and they're not about to have someone from Washington, DC or Delaware or somewhere else begin to tell us who we can pick,” Sestak, D-Pa., said on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” today .
Sestak is running in a tight Democratic primary race against Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who enjoys the support of Obama and Biden -- the former longtime senator from neighboring Delaware. The primary is Tuesday, with polls showing a race that could go either way.
“We're pretty independent-minded, and at the end of the day we're going to have to live with this senator for the next 6 years,” Sestak told us. “And I think what you're seeing is just a group of people like me who say 'enough Washington, you're broken.' We need someone down there who is willing to lose their job and not take a position because they're about to lose the next election. And I intend to continue to try to earn the trust of Pennsylvanians that I'm that guy.”
Sestak said there would be no hard feelings if he’s able to prevail.
“I have great respect for this president. I intend to be not a yes man but one of his strongest if not the strongest ally he can have in the Senate,” he said.
He said he’s not concerned that his primary fight has split the Democratic base:
“Actually, I think it's excited them. They can now be passionate about someone who actually stood up to the Democratic establishment, and I said, ‘I'm in it for you.’ Look they said the same thing about Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton when they were candidates, and look at the polls. … My favorability has gone up tremendously because I think independents, moderate Republicans will respect someone who said to their own party establishment, ‘Hey this is wrong.’
“It’s like John F. Kennedy once said: Sometimes the party asks too much. I believe in Democratic principles, but when the establishment of the Democratic Party's wrong -- I'm fighting for on the side of the working families of Pennsylvania. That’s the strength we'll have in this electoral process and the general election.”
Sestak predicted that Specter will wind up supporting Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, even though he opposed her confirmation as solicitor general last year:
“Arlen Specter is going to back pedal on Solicitor General Kagan. There’s not a question about it -- he'll do what is right for his electoral prospects.”
And he downplayed the impact on Pennsylvania of the loss of Specter’s seniority, noting that he went to the back of the for seniority purposes on committees when he became a Democrat last year:
“I ran against a 22-year incumbent Republican congressman, and people said, ‘seniority.’ They didn't need seniority -- they needed a public servant! And besides, Arlen Specter’s now 97th in seniority. There's only 3 more junior than him. And so, you know, you sit back here and say, ‘What has he done with his seniority’ … Do you focus upon working families in Pennsylvania or do you kind of say, ‘Hey Wall Street or Rick Santorum, I'll do this if you can help me here.’ This is a change we need.”
Watch the full interview with Rep. Joe Sestak HERE .
For our “Post Politics” segment, we checked in with Dan Balz of The Washington Post about the British elections, and the new government formed this week by a potentially awkward coalition of parties.
Watch the discussion with Dan Balz HERE.