When a three term incumbent senator of any affiliation is knocked off, a shiver runs through the club. "Am I next?" appears to hang in the air, precariously wafting through the ornate halls. And in a rare moment of candor, I got a glimpse of this.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, invited me to join him on the underground subway that connects the outer office buildings to the Capitol, as we chatted. It's about a four minute ride, but boy did I want it to be longer today. Sitting across from us - Sen. Arlen Specter, D-PA, who is in the political fight for his life back home with polls showing him down against his primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak.
It's an odd turn of events in Pennsylvania, with Specter jumping the GOP ship when a challenge from the far right from former Rep. Pat Toomey, former head of the conservative Club for Growth, proved too much for him. The closed primary process in PA where voters are bound by party registration was a critical factor, with the moderate Specter unable to muster enough support among conservatives.
Meanwhile, across the country, three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett, R-UT, just got his head handed to him Saturday at a party convention where conservatives chose to dump the senator for a Republican they thought was more in line with their beliefs. Bennett is now out as the GOP pick for this fall, but he's mulling a write-in candidacy (though he says he's made no decisions yet).
Now back to that subway ride. Here's what then transpired, perhaps best put in script form --- my rough log of my journey:
Specter to Hatch: So - you better watch out, Orrin, Toomey's coming to get you next.
Hatch: What's that?
Specter: That Club for Growth is going to be coming for you next just like they did me.
Hatch: Man - they really savaged Bob. But they're after Republicans.
Specter: Well, they got me.
Hatch: It's vicious out there.
Specter thinking, pauses - looks at me, smiling wryly: Well, you've got the big scoop now don't you?
Gulp. Did I ever. As "fly on the wall" moments go, that one was pretty darn decent.