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Rothenberg One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.

Pennsylvania Senate: The Race That Never Happened

Washington 2: Have The Democrats Missed An Opportunity?

By Stuart Rothenberg

(May 5) -- Six years ago, Republican Arlen Specter, the GOP's lead interrogator against Anita Hill, was almost drowned in "the year of the woman." But times have changed, and Specter has drawn third-tier opponents, both in the primary and in the general election. How did Specter, who once was a top target of conservatives and of liberal women, become so safe in a state, Pennsylvania, that is normally so competitive?

 Rothenberg's 1998 Senate Ratings

A number of Democrats with statewide ambition, were mentioned as challengers to the three-term Republican. But Ed Rendell, the mayor of Philadelphia, passed on the race, as did state legislator Allison Schwartz, former state secretary of aging Linda Rhodes, former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, Cong. Ron Klink and former congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky. The same happened on the political right, where potentially credible conservatives looked at a primary challenge before deciding against it. .

There are a number of reasons why Specter drew little opposition this year:

(1) Money. Democrats understood that Specter would be able to raise boatloads of cash, forcing the Democratic nominee to raise about $ 8 million, an intimidating sum for any Senate hopeful.

(2) Santorum. Some Democrats, including Schwartz, looked at their chances against Specter and decided that they could wait two years and have a much better shot against the state's other GOP senator, Rick Santorum, whose conservative views could make him more vulnerable than the moderate Specter.

(3) The State Democratic Party. Pennsylvania's Democrats couldn't find a credible challenger for Gov. Tom Ridge (R), and the party has seemed overmatched against the Pennsylvania GOP for at least a couple of cycles now.

(4) The Cycle. Specter, a tenacious campaigner, has won when the national mood was against him, so Democrats apparently have concluded they aren't going to knock him off in a pro-incumbent, pro-status quo environment. And with the GOP's image improved from 1992 and 1996, Specter simply looks unbeatable.

(5) Specter. As he does before every election, Specter wooed conservatives this cycle. They know that after November he'll forget them, but they also have come to believe that they can't defeat him in a primary.

Specter proves that you don't have to be a warm and cuddly politician to win election, but, even more, he's proven that, in politics, there is a time and place for everything.

Washington 2: Have The Democrats Missed An Opportunity?

Cong. Jack Metcalf (R) isn't one of those "young turks," even though he was first elected to Congress in 1994, the year of the so-called Republican Revolution. That's because Metcalf, 70, wasn't elected to the U.S. House until he was 66 years old. But the two-term Republican, who had previously lost races for the U.S. Senate and Congress and had his ups and downs in state legislative races, is just as conservative as any member of his class. And that's why some Democrats see him as an inviting target.

Metcalf rode the GOP wave four years ago and narrowly won reelection in 1996, edging out state Sen. Kevin Quigley only after absentee ballots were counted. This year, two Democrats have their sights on Metcalf.

Greta Cammermeyer, a former Army nurse, has raised over $300,000 and has a campaign budget (for the primary and general elections) of $1.3 million. The former Army officer, who is generally liberal on the issues, has raised money nationally. Cammermeyer's discharge from the military because she is a lesbian drew national attention, and a made-for-TV movie starring Glenn Close as Cammermeyer aired in 1995.

Challenging Cammermeyer for the Democratic nomination is Fran Einterz, a former Peace Corps volunteer and wealthy businessman. Although he has considerable personal resources, Einterz is a strong campaign finance reform advocate and refuses to spend more than $100,000 of his own money in the campaign. He has also said he expects his campaign to spend just $150,000 in the primary and $500,000 in the general. Like Cammermeyer, Einterz is generally liberal.

Metcalf spent almost $800,000 last time, and over 40percent of his receipts came from political action committees. Democrats see him as far too conservative for the district, which they note is politically marginal. The 2nd C.D. was represented by Democratic congressman Al Swift before he retired in 1994.

But with Einterz not likely to have the money needed to compete and Cammermeyer's controversial background not likely to be an asset in this district, Metcalf may well be able to tap the public's mood for the status-quo. That should give him a leg up on reelection. But the congressman's views and the district's competitiveness mean the Democratic challenger cannot be taken lightly and the Republicans will need to keep an eye on this race.

In Other News

Tuesday, May 5, 1998

Hubbell Explains Riady Money On Latest Tapes
House Members To Propose $500 Billion Tobacco Plan
Burton 'Postpones Indefinitely' Campaign Finance Hearings
Little Rock Grand Jury Goes Home
Judge Rules Against Clinton On Executive Privilege
Jordan Completes Another Day Of Grand Jury Testimony
Attorney: Prosecutors Have 'Hidden Agenda', McDougal Won't Cooperate
Hear Hubbell's Prison Telephone Calls

The "Inside Politics" Interview: Rep. Dan Burton

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