VP Biden on Sen. Specter’s Primary Defeat: “One of my Closest Friends” Who Served Pennsylvania with “Determination, Wisdom and Skill”

By Alex Pepper

May 19, 2010 5:38pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

Vice President Biden has weighed in on his good friend Arlen Specter’s loss in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate Primary last night with a paper statement.

Biden said Specter has served his state “with determination, wisdom and skill for many years.”

“I was proud to play a role in his return to the Democratic Party; his votes to pass the Recovery Act and health insurance reform were courageous and critical to our success,” the vice president said. “I look forward to working with him during the rest of this year, and remaining in close contact with him after his term in Washington is finished.”

Biden said in the statement that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) who defeated Specter in Tuesday’s Keystone State primary will be a great candidate and he looks forward to campaigning for him in the fall.

Biden and Specter served together in the Senate for nearly 30 years and today the vice president called the Pennsylvania senator “one of my closest friends.”

By all accounts, Biden played a key role in Specter’s switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party last spring.

The vice president had been heavily lobbying Specter and his fellow moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, to get on board the president's stimulus legislation. In the end the trio were the only Republicans to break rank and support the bill and they came under fire from conservatives for their vote.

Biden saw a window of opportunity to hammer home a message he had been delivering to his good friend from Pennsylvania for years, since Specter's last re-election run in 2004 where he faced a tough primary battle. But Biden felt that his message had greater resonance now — you don't have a place in the GOP anymore, but you will be welcomed on our side.
Between the time the Recovery Act passed on Feb 13 and Specter's announcement on April 28, the vice president had over a dozen conversations with him about making the switch, aides said.
Last fall Biden stumped for Specter at a fundraiser and said that without Specter’s vote on the Recovery Act, the United States “would probably be in a depression.”

-Karen Travers

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