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Hoeffel Hopes for Coattails As Specter Rakes in Endorsements

BY Admin  September 20, 2004 at 5:45 PM EDT

Hoeffel, who is hoping to oust four-term Sen. Arlen Specter, has appeared at nearly every rally with the Democratic nominees throughout the Keystone State.

The latest was Sunday, where Hoeffel introduced Edwards to a crowd in Phoenixville, a suburban Philadelphia town known as one of the swing parts of the state.

The three-term congressman has used the dozens of rallies to sound his own message, making the case that the same issues that should lead to President Bush’s defeat should also end Specter’s run in the Senate.

“The Republicans made their choices. They decided to cut taxes for millionaires rather than make important investments in job creation, public schools and health care,” Hoeffel told a crowd of some 4,000. “They have led us into a situation where we’re less safe, not more safe, against the war on terror.”

The tactic is one the Senate hopeful adopted earlier this year in an effort to gain name recognition outside the suburban Philadelphia district that he has represented in Congress.

“The fact that Pennsylvania is a battleground state in the presidential election — meaning that both sides are focusing there. The president is coming in there a lot. Senator Kerry will be there a lot. A lot of national money, a lot of national energy is focused on this state. [It] is all good for me,” Hoeffel said this summer. “A sleepy election in Pennsylvania would hurt me this year. I need people paying attention. I need them focused.”

The campaigning has been tough going against the four-term Specter. The state’s senior senator has garnered the endorsements of several major labor unions, including the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and Teamsters.

“Our members pledged their strong support to Senator Specter because of his years of hard work on behalf of Pennsylvania’s working families,” said Frank Gillen, president of the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters and President of Joint Council 53. “You can be sure Pennsylvania’s Teamsters will be working hard to get Senator Specter reelected in November.”

The AFL-CIO explained its decision in tactical as well as philosophic terms, saying they had weighed Hoeffel’s chances before making a final call.

“I think a lot of people felt that Hoeffel’s polling number wasn’t at the level that it should be to beat Arlen Specter,” Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George told the Associated Press in late August.

Hoeffel’s numbers have lagged behind Specter as he works to build a statewide campaign. According to Sept. 16, 2004 poll released by the reputable Quinnipiac University, Specter still garnered 51 percent support among voters, with Hoeffel a distant second at 33 percent.

A potentially more problematic statistic in the poll indicated that Hoeffel was only attracting the support of 12 percent of registered Republicans while Specter was able to capture 31 percent of registered Democrats.

Still Hoeffel plans major advertising buys in the coming six weeks, and he may have a receptive audience. According to the same Quinnipiac poll, some 56 percent of voters said they have been paying little or no attention to the Senate race, a fact Hoeffel intends to change. Still without a significant development, Specter may well be headed toward an unprecedented fifth term as Pennsylvania’s senator.