2 comments March 8th, 2009at 12:43pm Posted by Eli
I’m trying to decide whether or not this would be a good thing…
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) does not have the fall-back option of running as an independent should he lose his 2010 primary election, giving the senior lawmaker strong incentive to abandon his party this year.
Specter faces an extremely difficult primary race against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the conservative firebrand who lost his bid to oust Specter from his seat in the 2004 GOP primary by a mere 17,000 votes (out of more than a million cast).
Pennsylvania political experts say that Specter would likely face a more difficult challenge in 2010 because the Republican primary electorate in Pennsylvania has become more conservative.
“I think he has a lot of problems,” said Terry Madonna, a professor of political science at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. “I think this is the test of lifetime.”
Madonna estimated that between 150,000 to 200,000 centrist Republicans switched registration to the Democratic Party in the 2008 election cycle, leaving the remaining GOP electorate more conservative.
The Pennsylvania Department of State reported more than 130,000 switches from the GOP to the Democratic Party before the 2008 primary contest between President Obama and former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
The massive exodus of centrist-leaning voters from the Pennsylvania GOP leaves Specter’s right flank extremely vulnerable — fiscal and social conservatives have long viewed him as a bête noire.
“A candidate who loses in a primary cannot run as an independent in the general election,” said Leslie Amoros, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State.”
Should Specter stay with his party and lose to Toomey, it would create a tempting pick-up opportunity for Democrats.
Democratic strategists say that Toomey would be an easier candidate to defeat because of his outspoken conservatism, especially after Democratic voter registration jumped dramatically in 2008.
On the one hand, I pretty much hate Specter’s guts. His M.O. is to talk a good game, eloquently denounce Republican insanity or outright criminality… and then vote in favor of it.
On the other hand, it’s possible that he’s been voting against his own conscience out of fear of his own party, either in the form of primary challenges, or of being stripped of his Judiciary chairmanship back when Republicans were in the majority. With that pressure removed, Specter might very well be more liberal than a lot of his Democratic colleagues. It would also give the Democrats the magical 60 a year or two early.
I’m more than a little skeptical about that 60 number, which is really only meaningful if the planets are aligned just so: Al Franken has to get seated; Joe Lieberman has to behave, along with feckless conservative Democrats like Pryor, Lincoln, Landrieu, DiFi, Webb, and the Nelsons; and (sadly) Teddy Kennedy has to either stay healthy enough to vote or step aside.
From Specter’s perspective (perspecterive?), switching parties and running as a Dem makes sense, in much the same way that it made sense for Lieberman to run as a Dem in CT until he was finally exposed. He’d have a tough time in a general election as a Republican, but he’d cruise to victory as a Democrat. From my perspective, I’d rather have a progressive Democrat than a moderate or conservative one – we already have more than enough of those. Yes, it’s tempting to get to 60 early, but if it’s not going to be a solid 60, it’s just not worth it. Plus it’ll make Obama and the Democrats look even more pathetic every time Mitch McConnell eats their lunch.
One final caveat: The story lays out lots of reasons why it makes sense for Specter to jump parties, but provides no other evidence that he’s even considering it. So this is all just idle specterlation.