Bread and Circuses—and Beer

With primary elections set tomorrow in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas, today’s NYT offers looks at each of the races. Perhaps the most entertaining is Erick Eckholm’s dispatch from Philadelphia, where he finds Arlen Specter running assiduously away from nationalized themes and playing up his status as a well-connected insider who can pull strings on behalf of the Keystone State.

Examples include preserving a school-lunch program, pushing for a federal effort to deepen the harbor and create new jobs in the shipping industry, even contacting a health insurance company to ensure the daughter of a suburban mayor would get her PET scan paid for. But not all of Specter’s benevolent actions flow from his Capitol connections. Here’s how Eckholm ends the article:

Conversations in Ambler, a former factory town that is trying to renew itself, illustrated both the senator’s strengths and his vulnerabilities.

“I’m leaning to Specter,” said Alan Bassman, an accountant. “He’s a known quantity, and he’s got the clout on the Hill.” But the election had not generated much office talk, Mr. Bassman said, suggesting that there may be no rush to the polls.

Ann Brnich, a dental hygienist, said: “I have a bad feeling about Specter. He’s been there too long, and he just wants to stay there.”

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.