Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) was touted as the "best bet" for keeping his seat in Democratic hands by two major Pennsylvania newspapers.

The former Republican won strong backing in his first bid for the Democratic Senate nod from the editorial boards of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday.

The Inquirer said the "80-year-old newcomer to their party" is a "good choice for Democrats."

The Post-Gazette editorialized, "His knowledge of the state's needs, his ability to command respect on Capitol Hill and his voice for the brand of civil discourse that is too rare in America today have few rivals."

The Inquirer called Specter's primary rival, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a "worthy opponent for the nomination." But it noted he "suffers from low name recognition and the absence of support by party leaders, from President Obama to Gov. Rendell."

The Post-Gazette said that a "true-blue" liberal like Sestak will have a hard time winning in the current national environment.

"In a different political year, his true-blue liberalism might be just the ticket for the Democratic Party," the paper said. "But in 2010, with an insurgent challenge from the right to claim the seat and with grass-roots tea party activists railing against the role of government, whoever hopes to become Pennsylvania's next senator will need to win votes from the center."

The Inquirer said Specter "is a senator for the ages. He is still a vital player and a worthy choice for Democrats."

Specter and Sestak will meet in their only televised debate of the primary campaign on May 1.