TV Ads and Travel Plans

One way to assess the horse race in the last days of a campaign is to check the tone of TV ads and the travel plans of big-shot endorsers. Based on that formula, it looks like Rep. Joe Sestak is poised for victory against Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate race next Tuesday.

I just checked with the White House to make sure there had been no last-minute changes of plan, and in fact there had not: President Barack Obama will NOT be going to the state—even to Philly, where he is popular—to campaign for the beleaguered Specter. The 80-year-old senator is desperate for a strong turnout in the city and the close-in suburbs. The Philadelphia machine, run for the last 15 years by former mayor and now Gov. Ed Rendell, is getting kind of creaky. Its aging minions aren't excited about working overtime for a guy—Specter—who was a Republican until about 10 minutes ago.

Obama could help, especially among black voters, but he's not going again before Election Day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed to me today.

Why? Gibbs says it's because the president has been there, done that.

The other reason is that more and more Dems are concluding that Specter is going to lose—and the president doesn't want to risk being near the scene of a disaster, or risk having the power of his allure questioned.

Meanwhile, the Sestak ads you see on TV in the state—and those, I am told, are in the pipeline for the last three days—are generally "positives," meaning that they are designed more to tout Sestak than tear down Specter. The newest is one aimed at liberal Democrats: women, minorities. The theory is that voters have already rejected Specter, but many (still) don't know Sestak yet.

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