Power Play for Specter

Arlen Specter got back some of his political clout Thursday, two days after an unexpected (to him anyway) power-stripping. Then came the really good news, that Tom Ridge said he won't go up against Specter in the next election.

Senate Democrats brokered a deal in the morning that makes Senator Specter chair of the Judiciary Committee's busy and prestigious Crime and Drug Subcommittee. Majority Whip Dick Durbin  (D-Ill.) volunteered to give up that post and move over to chair the Human Rights Subcommittee, which was recently restored, according to Shailagh Murray's Washington Post blog.

Senate Democrats put the deal together to placate Specter, who was ceremoniously dropped from senior to junior status on all his committees Tuesday night after senate leaders from both parties agreed to pass that resolution.

Specter announced last Monday that he was switching over to the Democratic party. As a Republican he'd logged 28 years of seniority on key committees and wanted Democrats to honor his seniority.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Specter told David Gregory what he'd been telling reporters since announcing his party switch, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had agreed to allow him to keep his seniority.

“That’s an entitlement. I’ve earned the seniority,” he said. “I will be treated by the Democrats as if I’d been elected as a Democrat.”

And the day got even better for Specter when his biggest re-election threat-- former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge-- said he would not challenge Specter next year. Ridge is a moderate Republican who was the nation's first homeland security chief. He said in a statement Thursday that his party is facing challenges and he will work with the GOP, but he will not seek the nomination.

A Quinnipiac University poll this week showed Specter and Ridge running about even in a hypothetical general-election race.

Earlier Thursday, Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak says he is considering running. Sestak is a former Navy vice admiral said he's seriously considering taking on the 79-year-old Specter, who will be seeking a sixth term.

"The Democratic political establishment reached into the GOP establishment to give us the Democratic candidate for the future," said Sestak, 57.  "It's not theirs (choice) to make, it's ours to make," Sestak said. "It's not what we came to Washington to do is tell Pennsylvanians what they are to do in their Democratic choices."

Specter has $6.7 million cash on hand; Sestak has more than $3 million.

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