Player of the Week: Rep. Joe Sestak

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) has pulled ahead of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in two recent polls after trailing him by 20 points two months ago.

The Senate primary is next Tuesday, and this race could be decided by campaign tactics or a gaffe made between now and then.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden did not want Sestak to run, but he defied them. Sestak claimed the White House offered him a job if he dropped out of the race, a charge the White House has disputed.

It is worth noting that Specter, seeking his sixth term in the upper chamber, has won a lot of close races, most recently against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in the 2004 GOP primary.

Sestak has run a very effective campaign, raising nearly $6 million and challenging Specter on a variety of issues.

During a recent debate, Sestak noted that Specter voted for the Iraq war and has been a “career politician.”

Specter countered that Sestak’s retirement from the House could cost Democrats a seat in the lower chamber this fall, adding that Sestak was a registered independent before 2006.

Sestak’s candidacy is helped by the anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country, evidenced by Sen. Bob Bennett’s (R) defeat in Utah over the weekend.

How much will the White House help Specter in the coming days? Obama’s selection of Elena Kagan did not help Specter, who voted against her nomination as solicitor general when he was a Republican.

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A Sestak triumph would be seen as a bit of a rebuke of the president’s endorsement of Specter, though Obama would quickly endorse Sestak in the general election.

Still, Sestak’s gun-control stance could hurt him against Toomey in the general.

First things first. Sestak has to show he can finish off the wily Specter, who probably has a few tricks up his sleeve.