Does Joe Sestak Have A Chance?

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In 2006, when recently retired Naval Admiral Joe Sestak announced his candidacy to represent Pennsylvania’s seventh congressional district, he knew he’d be fighting an uphill battle. He was a Democrat and a political newcomer facing 10-term GOP incumbent Rep. Curt Weldon in a traditionally conservative district. But first Sestak bested his opponent in the fundraising race, and then he beat him at the polls, becoming only the second Democrat to win that seat since the Civil War. On Tuesday, after serving for little more than two years in the House of Representatives, Sestak announced that he would run against Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary.  Can he defy the odds once again?

Well, maybe. But it won’t be easy. When Sestak pulled off his upset victory over Weldon, he was helped by the fact that his opponent was the target of an FBI investigation. Specter, by contrast, is a 30-year incumbent with some major Democratic heavyweights standing behind him—including President Barack Obama; Vice President Joe Biden, who helped broker his party switch; and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. So far, the only big(ish) Pennsylvania pol to jump on board for Sestak is Joe Hoeffel, the former congressman and current vice-chair for the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, whom Specter defeated in the 2004 election.

Specter also has a huge name recognition advantage, years of Senate experience to sell to Pennsylvania voters, and a long track record of appealing to both independents and moderates. Sestak, by contrast, isn’t a household name outside his district.

Still, the news isn’t all bad for Sestak. For all of Specter’s many years in politics, he’s not crushing Sestak in the fundraising battle. In the last quarter, Sestak hauled in $1 million compared to Specter’s $1.7 million—but Specter has pledged to return contributions from GOP supporters who no longer supported him after he switched parties.

The big wild card in this race is the shifting allegiances of Pennsylvania voters. James Carville once memorably said that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. But there are now 1.2 million more Democrats than Republicans registered in Pennsylvania. At least some of those are newcomers to the party who were formerly moderate Republicans, Specter’s traditional support base. Be prepared for this fight to get ugly.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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