PHILADELPHIA. When Democratic primary voters go to the polls Tuesday, Arlen Specter and Anthony Williams both need the same thing: votes, and lots of them, from their Philadelphia base.
Both the incumbent Republican-turned-Democratic Senator and the gubernatorial hopeful are counting on a big Philly turnout, especially by black voters, to carry them over the finish line. If that doesn’t happen, Specter could be toast in a close race. And even if it does happen, it may not be enough for Williams.
Polls show Specter’s primary against Congressman Joe Sestak in a dead heat. But Williams is trailing by as much as 25 points in most public opinion surveys. He has increasingly gone after front-runner Dan Onorato in negative ads during the closing days of the race, but his early attempts to drag Onorato down have done almost as much to pull his own negative ratings up.
Williams, a Philadelphia state Senator, got into the race late, and was able to be a credible candidate thanks to the millions of dollars he got from school choice advocates. And had he started a bit earlier, he might not be in this position.
But Onorato, the Allegheny County Executive, got to the party first, blanketing the airwaves with TV ads just when voters were ready to start making up their minds about the race. Polls last week still showed plenty of undecided voters left, but those people are just as likely, if not more so, to break for Onorato than for any other candidate.
And in the end, Williams’ “outside the box” narrative may not have resonated enough with an electorate looking for specifics about jobs and the economy.
“I think Anthony may have been better served talking about his accomplishments in the legislature or about who he is,” one Democratic consultant not involved in the race said. “When you do an attack ad you not only drive your opponent’s negatives you drive yours