NEW YORK—Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D) and most of Pennsylvania’s powerful Democrats don’t get along. (More bluntly: They hate each other.) But right now, it doesn’t look like that will get in the way of Sestak being the party’s Senate nominee once again in 2016.
— Josh Shapiro (D), a well-regarded county commissioner in the Philadelphia suburbs, was seen as the most likely Sestak primary challenger. But speculation at the Pennsylvania Society, an annual gathering of the state’s political elite in New York City, ran rampant that Shapiro was eyeing a run for attorney general instead. (Sitting AG Kathleen Kane (D) is the target of a grand jury investigation and, just a year after some were clamoring for her to run for higher office, is widely seen as incapable of winning reelection against a Republican.)
— If Shapiro opts against a Senate run, anti-Sestak Democrats don’t even have a short-list of possible alternatives. Like most states, the Democratic bench in Pennsylvania has been taken apart. A few possible challengers — like Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) or outgoing Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) — have already ruled out campaigns. Some of these Democrats remain confident they’ll find somebody eventually, but right now, they have no idea who.
— Don’t be surprised if Sestak’s allies start making progress with the argument (one they’ve made privately in earnest) that the 2010 Senate nominee is the party’s best option to take on Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Even some Republicans privately acknowledge that the onetime U.S. Navy admiral, who lost to Toomey by just two points in the 2010 GOP wave, still poses a real threat to the Republican senator — especially if Hillary Clinton were to carry Pennsylvania by a relatively comfortable margin in the presidential race. And while some powerful donors and other elected officials might not like Sestak, many voters do.
It’ll take a lot of work to convince some Democrats that Sestak should be the party’s standard-bearer in 2016. But those same Democrats better be open to the possibility: They might not have another choice.— Alex Roarty