By Sam Youngman - 09/15/09 08:34 PM EDT
President Barack Obama hailed Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) on Tuesday as a senator who has "always put his state before politics, before party."
Obama lauded Specter at a Philadelphia fundraiser that was expected to raise more than $2 million for the senator as he finds himself facing a tough primary race against Rep. Joe Sestak (D).
Specter has taken intense criticism from both Sestak and potential Republican challengers, being accused of trying to save his own political hide, as it was just six years ago that the senator was flying to the state on Air Force One with former President George W. Bush.
Obama defended Specter, much as Bush did, for his independence.
"Arlen's not someone who came to Washington to fight for a particular ideology," Obama said. "He came to fight for the working men and women of Pennsylvania, and he has a long and successful record of doing that."
The president noted at the end of his remarks that Specter was "a great senator when he was a Republican; he's going to be an even better senator now that he's a Democrat."
Obama announced his endorsement of Specter almost immediately after the senator announced his party defection in late April.
Much as he has done in fundraisers for other candidates, including former senator and current New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Obama spent the majority of his remarks on the need to pass healthcare reform, incorporating Specter as a loyal ally.
Specter praised Obama as "a transformational candidate, and now he's moving forward to be a transformational president, to bring real change."
"He's going to be successful, with my help and the help of others, on having comprehensive health reform to protect Americans," Specter said.