REPUBLICAN National Committee Chairman Michael Steele made a post-primary swing through Montgomery County yesterday to boost the GOP ticket - and tighten the screws on White House officials for refusing to say whether they had offered a job to Democratic congressman Joe Sestak to keep him out of the U.S. Senate race.
"Yes or no? You can dance around that pinhead all day long. The fact of the matter is you're going to get stuck by it," Steele said after the rally in Blue Bell, where he was joined by state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey and other Republican officials.
Sestak, who defeated U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter last week in the Democratic primary, has said that White House officials offered him a high-ranking position in a failed effort to clear the field for Specter. Sestak, a former three-star admiral who represents Delaware County's 7th Congressional District, won't reveal what the job was or who offered it.
President Obama's administration - the self-described "most open and accessible administration in American history" - has provided a series of nothing-to-see-here responses, telling reporters that there was no "inappropriate" offer that would constitute an attempted bribe.
But White House officials have refused to disclose details of the "offer," which is becoming a liability for Sestak, who casts himself as a political outsider. The story has already received coverage this week in the New York Times and Washington Post.
"Is the congressman lying about what he's saying?" Steele asked. "Well, he's been repeating it all over the networks, so clearly there's a discrepancy between his events and what he's seen, and what the White House saw or heard in those meetings."
Yesterday, Steele launched a Twitter campaign in which people are urged to "tweet" White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' Twitter handle, @PressSec, asking about Sestak.
"Very simple question," Steele said. "Answer the question: Did you, or did you not, offer the job?"
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants a criminal probe.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters that Sestak "needs to make it clear what happened," and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said Monday that the White House should come clean.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, acknowledged Monday on CNN that "conversations" occurred, but said no crime had been committed.
"When the allegations were made, they were looked into. And there was no evidence of such a thing," Axelrod said.
Sestak, who first confirmed the job offer in February in response to a question from Larry Kane on his "Voice of Reason" show, did not have any details to add yesterday. His campaign spokesman, Jonathon Dworkin, dismissed the issue as a "cynical political distraction." The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Pennsylvania Republicans are optimistic about their chances of taking back the governor's mansion, of winning Specter's Senate seat, and of re-establishing a foothold in the congressional districts that surround Philadelphia. At yesterday's rally, the candidates said they'd stick to a meat-and-potatoes message of reduced spending, lower taxes and smaller government.
"You're looking for good leaders. You're looking for folks who can go to the United States Senate and give 'em hell, right?" Steele said to applause. "I know this brother here is going to give them all kinds of hell," he said of Toomey, a former Lehigh Valley congressman and ex-president of the anti-tax Club for Growth.