National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) may have called for Pennsylvania Republicans to unite behind Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) last week, but GOP members of the Keystone State delegation are choosing to sit on the sidelines in what is expected to be a blockbuster primary in 2010.
The states Republican House Members indicated in separate interviews that they are not ready to endorse Specter, who faces a challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in what is likely to be the toughest battle of his 30-year Senate career.
Specter enjoyed the support of almost everyone in the delegation in 2004, when he narrowly defeated Toomey by less than 2 percent in the GOP primary. But with Specter trailing Toomey in polling on next years rematch, Pennsylvania Members arent inclined to choose sides for now.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who supported Specter in the last primary, told Roll Call recently that he had not endorsed anyone yet and that he plans to keep it that way for the time being. Right now Ive not endorsed anyone, Shuster said. Now its too early to get out there.
Shuster was one of nine Republicans in the delegation who supported Specter in 2004. Rep. Joe Pitts was one of the states two Republican Members who stayed neutral in the last primary (then-Rep. Melissa Hart was the other). Pitts said he doesnt plan on changing that position six years later.
Ive got two friends fighting, Pitts said. Im not going to get between them.
Pitts said he has not spoken with Toomey for months but considers both Toomey and Specter to be personal friends.
I served with Pat. I served with Arlen, Pitts said. And whoever wins, Ive got to live with them, and Im not going to get between them if they fight, if theyre the two.
Not only did Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) support Specter in 2004, but the Senators family lives in his suburban Philadelphia district. Gerlach, who is considering a bid for governor in 2010, had nothing but praise for Specter but stopped short of endorsing the Senator. Ive worked with Sen. Specter on a lot of things, Gerlach said. And hes been very helpful to the 6th Congressional district.
Another 2004 Specter supporter, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), said through his top aide that he was not going to endorse either candidate yet. Murphys chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, said the Congressman is declining to make public statements about any of the races in Pennsylvania.
Even freshman Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), who was elected to his first term last November, declined to say who he would support in 2010.
In 2010, there is one extremely important race for me and thats my re-election, honestly, Thompson said. Thats what Im focusing on.
The other two Republicans in the delegation, Reps. Charlie Dent and Todd Platts, did not respond to several requests for comment. Dent was elected to succeed Toomey in his Allentown-based district in 2004.