PERCOLATING IN PENNSYLVANIA…. Quinnipiac released a poll out of Pennsylvania this morning that will no doubt be of interest to leaders in both parties. In the first survey taken since Arlen Specter switched parties, the incumbent senator would easily defeat former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in a general election, 53% to 33%.

Of course, Toomey may not be the GOP nominee, especially with former Gov. Tom Ridge (R) eyeing the race. Should Ridge face off against Specter in a general election, Quinnipiac shows the incumbent ahead, but not by much, 46% to 43%. Perhaps most importantly, independents in Pennsylvania prefer Specter to Toomey, but also prefer Ridge to Specter.

“A former Republican Senator running as a Democrat against a popular former Republican governor seeking to make a political comeback would be a battle royal in Pennsylvania,” said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money.”

At least in a general election, that is. While the poll showed Democrats in the state heavily preferring Specter to Toomey, there’s still the matter of the Democratic nomination to consider.

Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak told CNN Sunday that he wasn’t sure Sen. Arlen Specter is really part of the Democratic Party, the latest in a series of tough comments aimed at his potential Senate primary rival.

“I’m not sure he’s a Democrat yet,” he told John King on State of the Union. […]

After Specter’s announcement last week, Sestak said he was taking a wait-and-see approach on the question of whether to embrace the party’s newest senator. Later in the week, he finally confirmed publicly that he’s weighing a Senate bid of his own, setting up the prospect of a primary fight between the Democratic congressman and the party’s newest senator.

Complicating matters, SEIU head Andy Stern acknowledged via Twitter that he’ll be visiting with Sestak today, presumably to discuss the Senate race. (The SEIU was rather explicit late last week in stating that support for Specter was hardly automatic, the party switch notwithstanding.)

Now, for Democrats, is Sestak a progressive champion? No. Nate Silver had a very good item over the weekend noting that Sestak may not literally be a “Blue Dog,” but by the standards of the House caucus and his Democratic Pennsylvania district, Sestak is not even close to being a liberal.

The key, however, is that Sestak seems prepared to earn the Democratic nomination, while Specter, a Republican up until extremely recently, apparently feels like the nomination should just be handed to him, regardless of his votes.

At a minimum, this should be a wake-up call for Specter. Whether he hears the ringing or not remains to be seen.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.