CITY HALL insiders have been buzzing for weeks over what might be in a story Philadelphia Magazine has been pursuing about Mayor Nutter.

The lengthy report, penned by Steve Volk, hit newsstands this week. And it does throw a couple sharp elbows at hizzoner. Volk argues that in his first year in office, Nutter has strayed from the progressive savior image he touted as a candidate. Here's a segment:

"Pick an issue: Libraries. Union negotiations. Transparency in government. The budget. Casinos. Nutter either flipped positions or acted contrary to his reformer persona on each. By the end of the year, Philadelphia had a mayor it didn't even know anymore. And the only thing left to do was boo, assess where he went wrong, and wonder if Michael Nutter had it in him to mount a comeback."

Now that's tough talk. Beware though, to get to Volk's Nutter story, you have to flip past photos of a naked Daily News columnist Michael Smerconish.

Specter I

"Oh, he absolutely belongs in the Democratic party."

Clout had to smile when Mayor Nutter offered that welcome to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter Tuesday after his defection from the GOP.

We remember Specter cornering Nutter for an intense conversation at a Pennsylvania Society event in 2006, telling Nutter that his best shot at becoming mayor was to run as a Republican, according to our sources.

Asked if that's what he was up to, Specter said, "I'm not going to answer a question like that." But he later admitted it was true.

Just think: If Specter had made a better pitch in New York that day, Nutter might be trashing him now for abandoning the party.

Specter II

Did anyone but Clout notice that when Specter announced he was switching parties he wore a Republican red tie and when he appeared next day with President Obama as a Democrat he wore a Democratic blue tie?

Make Harrisburg mellow

Philly Democratic state Rep. Mark Cohen Wednesday announced he's introducing legislation to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

We at Clout think this is a great idea, especially if all lawmakers (or all voters) can qualify for its use. Maybe it'll mellow out the Legislature or, in the case of voters, make the Legislature tolerable.

Ox on a Pike?

Although the 6th Congressional District was gerrymandered in 2000 to make it safe for Republican Jim Gerlach, it has been anything but. He's won four of his five elections by a narrow 51 to 49 percent margin.

Hoping the sixth time's the charm to beating Gerlach, Democrat Doug Pike, former Inquirer editorial page writer, is lining up support, threatening to spend $1 million of his own money and assembling a campaign staff.

The latest addition? Doc Sweitzer of The Campaign Group. The Group has done campaign media for Gov. Rendell and Mayor Nutter and co-founder Neil Oxman thinks Gerlach's earlier close calls make the seat "very winnable" for the Dems.

It's even possible Gerlach may not seek re-election. He's already formed an exploratory committee for governor. And, with Arlen Specter jumping parties, some GOP honchos think Gerlach should run for his Senate seat.

Pike, by the way, is the son of former Long Island Congressman Otis G. Pike, whose committee's investigation of CIA abuses under President Nixon made a big splash in the 1970s.


"I don't want to be a toady of a political party and when you join these damn political parties, no matter which one it is, you end up buying the blue plate special, you gotta buy card check, you gotta buy trade restrictions, you gotta do everything they want. You've got to eat it. And I didn't want to eat it. Now Arlen is willing to eat it. This guy is willing to do anything to keep that Senate seat."

- Chris Matthews, MSNBC personality who toyed with the idea of running for Senate, on Specter's party switch. *

Staff writers Dave Davies, John M. Baer and Gar Joseph contributed to this report.

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