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“That’s the kind of guy he is,” said Shanin’s father, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who shared the story. “He always has got some interesting touch which enlivens the issue.” No surprise, the senator is one of his son’s biggest boosters. “He is so smooth, he makes silk look like sandpaper… With all of his talent, he has a very sensitive and congenial manner. People like him and he says things with finesse and deference.”
Shanin grew up in a political household, absorbing lessons from his father, who ran for Philadelphia district attorney, governor, senator, even president. All the while, Shanin honed skills that would serve him as an attorney. He filled in for his father at debates. He did polling analysis. He conducted tracking polls for former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa). He watched storied media guru David Garth produce political ads for his father (Garth is notoriously picky about who enters his inner sanctum). But, above all, he wears the mantle of most trusted adviser to his father.
And yet Shanin views politics as a side dish, not the main course. Cocooned in his 19th floor sanctuary overlooking Philadelphia’s skyline, Specter says he‘s not subject to the fickle whims of the electorate nor the constant demands on your time. “I enjoy politics as an avocation, not as a vocation,” he says, deflecting a question about running for public office some day.
To which, his father scoffs: “I’d say, ‘Don’t count him out.’ I’ve heard him say that (he won’t run for political office), but I think under the right circumstances, that he might be draftable.”