THERE ARE an awful lot of people who are happy that Joe Sestak is the Democratic candidate in the U.S. Senate race.

But it's not because of who he is - they're thrilled about who he isn't: Arlen Specter.

Despite an effort by Sestak supporters to make it appear that the electorate cast its vote in favor of an unknown, untested and relatively inexperienced congressman over a senator with 30 years' seniority, Sestak beat Specter out of the voters' sense of bipartisan anger.

There were those on the left who disdained Specter for posing as a Democrat when most of his political life was spent navigating the middle, mostly from the rightish side of the GOP line.

They were particularly incensed by his masterful handling of Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings, accusing him of everything short of domestic abuse. (Personally, that was one of the few things that made me admire the former Philly D.A. He refused to be politically correct and treat the female law professor with kid gloves, instead acting like the seasoned prosecutor - and truth-seeker - that he was.)

Those on the right were equally annoyed by Specter's portrayal of "Benedict Arlen," abandoning the Republican Party when it became crystal-clear that he was going to lose to Pat Toomey in the primary.

Employing that old "the party left me, I didn't leave the party" trope that politicos use when they know they've been unmasked as flip-floppers of convenience, Specter tried to make it seem that jumping the Good Ship GOP made him a maverick.

Sadly, all it did was make him a laughingstock to the people who had supported him (even though they didn't like the smell) lo these many decades.

So with both the left and the right surprisingly in agreement, Specter found refuge in a rather dubious harbor: President Obama and his Chicago political machine.

If he'd only taken a closer look at some recent races (like Jon Corzine vs. Chris Christie or the race for governor in Virginia), our senior senator might have figured out that an endorsement by Obama wasn't exactly a Get Elected Free card.

(In fact, Obama's track record of support has been so consistently bad, I hope he starts publicly rooting for Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals.)

Which brings us back to "I'm Just a Regular Joe" Sestak. During the run-up to the primary, the congressman let it slip that he'd been offered a "job" with the Obama administration if he dropped out of the race.

He refused to say what type of "job" he'd been offered, or who actually made the overtures. But he was very clear that the president, either directly or indirectly through Rahm-It-Through Emanuel, had tried to entice him out of the race.

It turns out that former President Bill Clinton may have been the "Offerer-in-Chief." And now it appears the White House may have tried the same tactic with another Dem, Andrew Romanoff, a primary challenger for Sen. Michael Bennett, in Colorado. Romanoff confirmed yesterday that the White House had floated several possibilities with him in an effort to have him drop out of the race. Like Sestak, he said no thanks.

Seems you can take the pols out of Chicago but you can't take the Chicago way out of the pols.

I'm no fan of Sestak, who ran an underhanded campaign against longtime Rep. Curt Weldon to snag the seat. He's a carpetbagger who pretended to "understand" the needs of those of us in the 7th House District but who hadn't set foot in Delaware County for almost three decades before he remembered his "roots."

He's a Navy vet, which deserves respect, but the stories about his arrogant management style are troubling. He's raised eyebrows with some of his political alliances, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, which roiled the waters a few years ago by refusing to condemn terrorists.

He's far too liberal both for my tastes, and, I think, those of the district.

But that's not the point. D.C. shouldn't be trying to manipulate elections in Pa. Or Colo., for that matter.

WHICH brings us to Obama and the White House legal machine, which has said nothing illegal occurred in the Sestak case, but hasn't really been able to explain what actually went down.

So an administration that trumpeted transparency and ethics says, in essence, that we can play the game in the same old way, and can enlist the services of the man who raised immorality to an art form, but as long as we're able to say we acted "legally," anything goes.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Listen to her most Thursdays on WPHT/1210 AM, 10-midnight. See her on Channel 6's "Inside Story" this Sunday at 11:30 a.m.