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Sestak, the New Lamont?

Democratic leaders will continue to support the 2010 reelection of Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), Congress’ newest Democrat, despite yesterday’s news that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is planning a primary challenge, The Plum Line reported this afternoon. Here’s the statement from Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), via Greg Sargent:

Like President Obama and Vice President Biden, Senator Reid will work to raise money and campaign for Senator Specter.

The development is slightly reminiscent of the Connecticut saga in 2006. In that case, there was a liberal candidate (Ned Lamont) challenging an established moderate (Joe Lieberman) who broke with the Democrats on a number of key issues (notably the war on terror), yet party leaders stuck with the moderate.

In this case, there’s a not-quite-liberal candidate (Sestak) poised to take on an established moderate (Specter) who’s ready to break with the Democrats on several key issues (the Employee Free Choice Act, public health plans), yet party leaders are again throwing their weight behind the riskier guy.

In recent weeks, Specter has tempered his outright opposition to EFCA and the inclusion of a public insurance plan as part of the Democrats’ soon-to-be-unveiled health care reform proposal. Do Democratic leaders know something the rest of us don’t about how Specter, whose first act as a Democrat was to vote against Obama’s budget, intends to come down on other party priorities? Or are they just wary of Sestak’s infamous temperament?

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