Pennsylvania's Provocative Primary

April 22, 1992

The second pro-Clarence Thomas senator goes before voters next Tuesday. He is Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican. Democratic Sen. Alan Dixon of Illinois faced the voters last month; he was upset by a little-known woman candidate, Carol Moseley Braun, who won in large part because of Senator Dixon's "yes" vote on the nomination. She got the "Anita Hill vote."

If there really is such a vote. Pennsylvania's Republican primary could help confirm it. It is one thing for Democratic women to vote against a pro-Thomas senator, as apparently most of them did in Illinois. It would be another thing for Republican women to vote heavily against one. Some Republican women crossed over to vote against Senator Dixon in the Democratic primary in Illinois, but not a large number. Pennsylvania's primaries are closed. So if there is a heavy vote by women against him, that will really shake the GOP.

Most of the women likely to be "Anita Hill" voters are also pro-choice. This complicates the voter decision-making in the Republican primary. Senator Specter is also pro-choice. His opponent is a state legislator, Rep. Stephen Freind, the leader in the effort to enact a restrictive abortion law in the state. That law's constitutionality is to be debated in the Supreme Court today, perhaps giving the issue extra impact on primary day.

Senator Specter won his last primary with 76 percent of the vote. He has far more campaign money that Mr. Freind. His polls show him ahead. But he is worried. Not only did he vote for Clarence Thomas, he attacked Anita Hill's truthfulness in the Judiciary Committee hearings. With the exception of Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Specter came out of the Judiciary hearings with the most enmity from the pro-Hill voters -- at least, the most vocal of them.

Another aspect of the Pennsylvania primary is that it may verify the presidential nomination races are over. Pat Buchanan has campaigned in the state, but appears to be no factor. Jerry Brown does not seem likely to be big factor, either. Judged by their campaigns, President Bush and Governor Clinton appear confident this is a Bush-Clinton race now.

That can be a good thing for the public. It could result in the president and the governor devoting a much longer time to emphasizing their disagreements with each other and their agreements with their parties' traditions and priorities. In a two-party system, that is desirable. Of course, this year we may not have a two-party system in presidential politics. The new Texas Poll shows H. Ross Perot leading President Bush and Governor Clinton in the "Lone Star" state.

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