It looks like Florida and Pennsylvania are in a furious competition to see which state will host the most entertaining Senate race of the 2010 cycle.
News that Matthews is now engaged in contract-related discussions with MSNBC has sparked additional speculation as to his intentions: Is he looking to leave his post before his contract expires in June (many are advising him to do so, Politico reports) or has he stroked rumors of a Senate run as a ploy to get a better contract offer?
Given that Matthews is taking tangible steps towards a run - including trips to Pennsylvania and reportedly looking to establish residency in Pennsylvania - the latter option is looking more improbable by the day. At the very least, it looks like we will not have to wait to long to get a sense of Matthews’s intentions.
However, it appears that Matthews will not get a clear run to the Democratic nomination. While Rep. Sestak (PA-07) took his name out of the running today, Rep. Patrick Murphy (who picked-up PA-08 in 2006) is reportedly looking towards a statewide run. Other high-profile Democratic candidates could still emerge in what could become a highly contentious battle. (Note that Pennsylvania’s primary is relatively early.)
Matthews did get some good news today as Rasmussen released the third poll that has already been taken of a Specter-Matthews contest - and the very first to find Matthews within striking distance of the Republican incumbent. The first two surveys (released by PPP and Quinnipiac) had Specter leading by double-digit though he did not cross 50% in either; this third poll has Specter ahead 46% to 43%. We are two years from the election, so the only thing we should look for is signs of an incumbent’s vulnerability and of a challenger’s potential strength - two criteria this poll meets.
But Matthews candidcay alone might not be enough to propel Pennsylvania above Florida if Jeb Bush jumps in the latter race. Perhaps the prospect of a highly competitive Republican primary could do the trick!
Former Rep. Pat Toomey said this week that he is considering a rematch of his 2004 challenge to Specter - a brutal contest Specter barely survived (the margin was less than 2%. Toomey then became president of the Club for Growth and thus funded a number of other challenges to Republican incumbents perceived as moderates, meeting defeat in a number of races (Rhode Island’s Senate race in 2006, AK-AL in 2008) and some short-lived success in others (MI-07 and MD-01, though Democrats defeated the Club-backed candidate in the general election in both districts this fall).
“He’s significantly more vulnerable now than he was in 2004,” Toomey said of Specter. He unveiled a very interesting argument: Tens of thousands of voters who were registered Republican in 2004 have since switched their party registration and can thus no longer vote in Pennsylvania’s closed Republican primary. Those voters were Specter’s natural constituency, giving Toomey a boost over their 2004 match-up.
Needless to say, another bloody primary would help Democrats in this race. If he survives, Specter would be softened up for the general election. If Toomey prevails, the Democratic nominee would have to be considered the favorite to pick-up the seat.