A whopper of a fight in PA

Boy oh boy - you know a campaign is going to be ugly when opponents in a primary are already locking horns this early, a year before the election, and one of the players has not even officially announced his candidacy yet!

But so it goes in Pennsylvania, where 5-term incumbent Republican Senator Arlen Specter is already at fisty cuffs with his 2004 Republican primary nemesis, former Congressman Pat Toomey. Yes, it’s a “play-it-again” kind of race.

The Inbox is full of attacks and counterattacks, and there's already a $100,000 statewide TV ad by the incumbent, a midterm first.

The first shot today came from the Specter campaign: Pat Toomey has doctored his resume to surgically remove any hint of the kind of Wall Street vernacular synonymous with ugly four letter words, corporate greed, and Bernie Madoff.  "Wall Street" has indeed become an ugly line on anyone's resume.  This time, it was the words “trading derivatives” that harkened back to a Toomey career in the banking industry in the ‘80s.

Here's the specific accusation.

Toomey just stepped down as head of the conservative advocacy group, Club for Growth, and the Specter campaign found an old resume that was posted on the site, and since removed, that stated he “developed and managed a $21 billion derivatives trading operation for Morgan Grenfell Finance, Inc. in New York.”   You can find it with a simple Google search – choose the “cache” option.

Sen. Specter, in a letter to Toomey Monday, accused Toomey of removing this resume and replacing it with one that merely says Toomey was in “investment banking.”  No mention of “derivatives.”

Specter asked Toomey in the letter, “Why did you seek to omit this fact as you ready your Senate campaign?”

Only problem, you cannot find the “new” Toomey resume online. The Specter campaign submitted items that they say are facsimiles, but there is no way to tell if they are authentic.

Still, when I asked CFG spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik why the resume was removed, she said, “Pat’s bio is no longer up on our site because he is no longer president.  We will have a bio for (incoming President) Chris Chocola up shortly.”

When asked if CFG ever had a resume up that excluded any mention of “derivatives trading,” Soloveichik said, “To be honest, I have no idea. Sorry.”

This was basically the response of Toomey campaign manager Mark Harris. He said he stays out of all-things-Club for Growth, so as to maintain a separation from Toomey’s CFG professional experience from the political realm. So, he had "no idea."

So, the question goes unanswered.

But Harris did not stop there. He went on quite a tirade and insisted that Toomey was not about to run from Wall Street.

“The Specter campaign will say and do anything to distract from the facts of this race. You can’t solve deficits with more deficit spending. And American taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill. Pat Toomey has consistently opposed the things that got us into this mess, unlike Arlen Specter,” said Harris.

And there was more: “Pat Toomey is not hiding the fact that he worked for banks, that he worked on Wall Street. It’s not a story.”

Harris noted that credit default swaps were “invented seven years after Toomey left the profession.”  In fact, Specter had to correct his TV ad to this affect.

The nonpartisan Factcheck.org said on April 2, 2009:  “The ad says Toomey ‘sold risky derivatives called credit default swaps ... that have now plunged us into this financial mess.’ But Toomey dealt in interest rate and currency derivatives. Credit default swaps didn't become a part of Wall Street's derivative dealings until after Toomey left the financial world.”
Harris leveled his last zinger, saying, “This is the type of thing a challenger does when he’s 20 points down and no one has heard of him. He has to twist every fact of truth in order to try to deceive the voters into voting for him.”
Perhaps Specter can still capitalize on Toomey’s former Wall Street experience. After all, Toomey is a big proponent of deregulation, something some experts believe is at the root of the banking and investment industry crisis.  And certainly Specter can demonize Toomey’s “Wall Street” experience, but he better make sure he has no donors from the infamous “Street” in his own campaign treasure chest. The latest quarterly filings are due out April 15. We’ll know more then.

Specter isn’t totally relying on this “Wall Street” line of attack, though, as he faces a man that nearly knocked him off in 2004. He is appealing to the practical side of conservatives  in this closed primary (ie, only Republicans can vote in it):  vote for Toomey, and you give Democrats in the Senate 60 votes, a filibuster-proof majority.

Democrats currently hold 58 seats, and stand to gain another when Minnesota’s race is finally settled.  Theoretically, if they have 60 votes, Republicans would be shut out of the debate.

To this, Harris responds, “Toomey’s predecessor was a Democrat. The last Republican to win Toomey’s district was Bush in 1988. But Toomey won. He can absolutely win state-wide.”

But Specter has something else going for him. He has a war chest that he says will be $30 million-strong when all is said and done.  In 2004, he was able to out spend Toomey more than four to one, and the senator prevailed, though it was close.

It’s going to be tough for Sen. Specter, but he’s used to tough as a survivor of a rough kind of cancer that recurred not too long ago. And things can’t be too bad when you win the endorsement of radio shock jockey, Howard Stern, right?