Tom Ridge's decision not to run is one of the most sensible decisions a politician could make and it's what I would expect from Ridge, one of the most level-headed men to have held high elected position.
Rarely is it a good idea to get into a race that you did not plan to enter. Further, Ridge looked good to many people now, but if he were to have run, some of those folks (many of them Democrats) would have drifted away, if not abandoned him. His service in the Bush Administration, his business ties and don't forget the color-coded alert system, his stand on social issues and Pat Toomey in the primary and Arlen Specter himself in the general would have made one or both races hard-fought contests. The Tom Ridge I have observed since his days as Governor would never shy away from such a fight, but he would never get into it without being fully prepared and desirous of the goal. It's one lesson I long ago concluded he learned in admirable service for his nation in Vietnam.
One further thought: It is not lost on Ridge that as many as 200,000 moderate Republicans switched to the Democratic Party last year and most might not switch back for a primary.
So what does this mean for Pat Toomey? The GOP nomination is his for now. There is still a scramble to see if someone with some degree of clout and ability to raise money can challenge him. Congressman Jim Gerlach's name is most mentioned. He has been exploring a run for Governor, which means he may be tiring of his always-tight races in his nearly 50-50 Republican/Democratic district.
As for the general election of 2010, Arlen Specter is not a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. Clearly, he is the frontrunner now, but he does need to do three things: Run a good campaign. Have a better week than he's had (more on that in a moment.). And, hope that the progressives and moderates in the Democratic Party don't rally behind one candidate, such as Joe Sestak or Joe Torsella. If there are multiple challengers, that is good for Specter, but a Congressman Sestak has the credibility with the "new day, new way" Democrats that no former Republican could have. Sestak's challenge is whether he's ready for a statewide run, whether can he articulate his views effectively (he's still relatively new in the public official arena), whether can he raise the money and whether can he count on Arlen Specter looking like a tired, confused, outdated politician as opposed to a seasoned moderate on a mission for Pennsylvania. Folks who thought so in the past couple of elections, were looking for work in November. But, this week, Specter's saying he thinks Norm Coleman should be Minnesota's Senator, and Specter not getting the full seniority respect from Harry Reid, are not chapters that lead to victory in the face of strong competition.
NBC10 Political Analyst Steve Highsmith's show on local politics, NBC10 @Issue, airs Sundays at 9:30 a.m.