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Did Obama's White House try to buy off Arlen Specter's Senate opponent, Joe Sestak?

February 19, 2010 |  7:49 am

President Obama looks on as Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter announces he is swtiching from Republican to Democrat

When Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter announced at the White House last spring that he was switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, President Obama said he'd do anything he could to help the embattled senator, now 80 years old, win reelection.

Apparently he wasn't kidding.

Joe Sestak, the retired Navy admiral and Pennsylvania congressman who is challenging Specter in the Democratic primary, says the White House offered him a high-ranking administration job in hopes he would not make the race.

In a cable news interview by Larry Kane to be broadcast Sunday, Sestak was asked about rumors that the White House had made feelers to see if he could be lured from the race.

Yes, he acknowledged, but "I'm not going to say who or how and what was offered."

Navy secretary? No comment.

High-ranking? Yes.

Sestak would not give further details, except to say that "both here in Pennsylvania and down there [Washington], I was called quite a few times." Afterward, Sestak told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the offer came in July, not long before he formally announced his candidacy.

The White House on Friday morning denied the report, but there's no denying that party leaders are worried that an expensive and bruising primary could weaken whoever wins in the race against Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. And anyone who knows White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would not be surprised if the savvy politico had at least thought of this idea.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: President Obama and Sen. Arlen Specter. Credit: Mandel Ngan / Getty Images

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