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Rendell, Specter Still Confident of Pulling Out Win

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell predicted Sen. Arlen Specter would prevail over Rep. Joe Sestak in Tuesday’s Democratic Senate primary, but he conceded that voter turnout, suppressed by a steady rainfall, and a palpable anger at Washington could hurt the incumbent.

“I think generally a larger turnout would have benefitted Arlen,” Rendell, a Democrat and a Specter supporter, told reporters midafternoon on Tuesday. “If it wasn’t for that [anti-Washington] fervor, Arlen Specter would win this election by 15 points. And Arlen, as a 30-year incumbent, is the lightning rod for a lot of that anti-incumbency fervor.”

“But I still think he can win. The early reports I’m getting are pretty good, so, we’ll see,” Rendell added.

Rendell made his comments at the Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen in the Queens Village neighborhood of downtown Philadelphia. Stopping at the eatery is an Election Day tradition for Philadelphia Democrats that goes back 35 years, and Rendell’s arrival at the restaurant was preceded by Specter’s. The Senator, who bolted the Republican Party a little more than a year ago, stayed for a few minutes to work the room, but he did not eat.

Specter backers argued that the Senator’s voter turnout operation is first-rate and, particularly with the strong backing of organized labor, is far beyond anything Sestak could compete with. Specter was confident he would win what all public polling indicated was a very close race heading into primary day.

“I’d prefer to see the sun shining, but I can’t control that,” Specter told reporters, with his wife standing by his side. “We had a preliminary report which shows us with a slight lead.”

At the lunchtime peak, Famous Fourth Street was packed with labor union officials, city and state politicians, political consultants and local and national media. Outside, union members waved Specter signs. Sestak, who like Specter spent the first half of Tuesday stopping at polling places in and around Philadelphia, did not make an appearance at the restaurant, which has been in the same location in one form or another since 1923.

However, Sestak’s supporters were well-represented.

“The Democrats in control in office are supporting Arlen Specter. The reason you would support Arlen would be that you want to keep the seat a Democratic seat, and that assumes that only Arlen can win the state, and that’s really unfair,” Philadelphia-based political consultant Harriet Lessy said. “I think we’ve had enough of Arlen Specter. He’s done some good things, he’s done some not so good things, and the Republicans can have him back as far as I’m concerned.”

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