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Specter Signals Possible Change of Heart on Kagan

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) told reporters today he is now more comfortable with Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination after meeting with her this morning.

“I thought it was a very good meeting and I think she was very forthcoming,” he said.

Though Specter declined to endorse Kagan without first going through her confirmation hearings, his comments signaled a significant shift from his stance on her a year ago. In March 2009, when Specter was still a Republican, he was one of 31 who voted against her confirmation as Solicitor General. His objection at the time stemmed from her reluctance to fully answer his questions.

Specter’s previous vote against Kagan has been a political lightning rod for him since her nomination became official Monday, a little more than a week before his May 18 Democratic primary contest against Rep. Joe Sestak. After President Obama formally nominated Kagan, Sestak quickly released a statement in which he blasted Specter’s past vote and predicted an about-face on the new nominee.

“I expect Sen. Specter may backtrack from his earlier vote on Ms. Kagan this week in order to help himself in the upcoming primary election,” Sestak said in the statement.

Specter hit back at Sestak Thursday.

“Every move I make he’s trying to politicize,” he told reporters. “He might want to rush to judgment and make a decision before a hearing, before knowing what the facts were, but I take these things very seriously.”

Former Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, who will likely be the Republicans’ nominee, was positive in his own statement on Kagan, saying he would keep an open mind on her nomination.

Specter’s latest statement on Kagan came as polls conflict on the state of the race. The daily Muhlenberg College tracking poll shows Specter and Sestak tied at 44 percent each — Muhlenberg’s poll released Monday showed Sestak’s lead peaking at five points. A Suffolk University poll also released today, however, has Sestak leading by nine points. Both polls today indicated 12 percent of the electorate was undecided.

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