PHILADELPHIA – Four-term Sen. Arlen Specter (search) emerged victorious in a fractious and closely watched Republican primary, prevailing over a more conservative rival who had bucked the party and threatened its moderate wing.
Specter's win over Rep. Pat Toomey (search) also was a victory for President Bush, who endorsed Specter and is counting on his supporters to help him carry a state he narrowly lost to Democrat Al Gore (search) in 2000.
"Now is the time, now that we've settled our family disagreement in the Republican Party, to unite for victory in November for the president," Specter said early Wednesday.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Specter had 526,120 votes, or 51 percent, to Toomey's 509,507 votes, or 49 percent. Toomey conceded the race to applause in suburban Allentown by endorsing Specter.
Specter next faces Rep. Joe Hoeffel (search), a Democratic opponent who also hopes to unseat Specter in a state where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 389,000.
Hoeffel, a three-term congressman from suburban Philadelphia, said Wednesday that Specter moved too far to the right in the primary to be successful in the Nov. 2 general election.
"This primary has demonstrated that Arlen Specter is not the senator that he used to be," Hoeffel said. "He used to be a moderate maverick but he is neither of those things. He's voting for a Republican program in Washington that's not working in Pennsylvania. He's their senator now -- not ours."
Though he may be bruised from the primary, Specter should remain tough to beat in the general election, said Wilkes University political scientist Thomas J. Baldino.
Specter's near loss "will give Hoeffel some hope," Baldino said. "But as bad a beating as Specter took in term of his reputation, he will continue to raise and spend enough money to demonstrate he can win."
Specter, one of the last moderate Republicans in a politically polarized Senate, angered many when he supported the full scope of President Bush's 2003 tax cuts after voting to scale them back in 2001.
He also backed controversial White House judicial recess appointments despite criticizing the process in the past, and leaned on the endorsement of Sen. Rick Santorum (search), R-Pa., one of the Senate's leading conservatives.
Toomey bucked GOP leaders in challenging the senator. Few considered him a threat as recently as last month, but a poll released on the primary's eve showed the congressman just six percentage points behind.
"We saw the top of that tall mountain, but we came just a little bit short," Toomey said. "Although we didn't win the campaign, we did advance the cause. ... I have no doubt that someday we will reach the top of that tall mountain."
Specter easily won his home base of Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, while Toomey scored a surprise upset in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. He also dominated in his home area of Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Toomey is a fiscal conservative, opposes abortion rights and has voted against an increase in the minimum wage and background checks for firearm purchasers at gun shows.
Specter, a former Philadelphia district attorney, often enjoys support from unions and abortion rights activists and has clashed with the White House over tax cuts and homeland security.
During the campaign, he touted his prowess in delivering hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Pennsylvania each year because of his 24-year tenure in Washington. He called Toomey too "far out" for the state.
Specter is in line for the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee next year -- a prospect that scares conservatives still smarting over his 1987 vote thwarting the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork.
Specter spent more than $10 million on his campaign, about three times as much as Toomey. But he also had to fend off a $2 million assault from the conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth, which put other GOP moderates on notice when it targeted Specter as its No. 1 priority this year.
In other Pennsylvania races, Democratic state Sen. Allyson Y. Schwartz and Republican ophthalmologist Melissa Brown each defeated primary opponents for a chance to win the seat Hoeffel is leaving.
In Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, the son of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, Scott Paterno, 31, won the Republican nomination in a six-way primary.
The day also was marked by tragedy in western Pennsylvania, where a Democratic House candidate competing in an open race apparently committed suicide, authorities said.
Sam Kovolenko, 46, of Ambridge, was found by his wife in the bedroom of his home, dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the neck, said Beaver County Coroner Wayne Tatalovich. Kovolenko finished second among a field of five Democrats vying for the nomination to replace retiring state Rep. Susan Laughlin.