This week's political shocker is Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's announcement that he is switching parties to join the Democrats. With his current term almost up he will run in the Democrat primaries next Spring for re-election.
Liberals are crowing that this is a humiliating blow to the Republican Party, already on the ropes after losing both the White House and the Congress in last year's election. This has encouraged President Obama's supporters in pursuing his statist agenda.
However, Specter's betrayal is actually a blessing in disguise... at least long-term. This development may enable Republicans to place an actual Republican in Specter's Senate seat for the first time in decades. Conservatives are determined to flush out of the GOP Party-crashers known as R.I.N.O.'s -- Republicans in Name Only.
Conservatives are extremely concerned that allowing liberal candidates to represent the GOP has destroyed and distorted conservatives' image in the country. It may take decades to re-establish what it means to be a true conservative in the minds of the voters. In 2006 and 2008, conservatives withheld their volunteer work from the
Republican Party, arguing that failed Democrat President Jimmy Carter led to the election of conservative Ronald Reagan. Specter's departure has removed another liberal Party-crasher from the GOP.
Specter's votes in the Senate will not change. Conventional wisdom says that the Democrats now have 60 votes as a filibuster-proof majority. So Democrats can now pass whatever legislation they wish. That assumes that the stubborn and egotistical Specter will change his votes. Observers assume Specter will now vote for legislation he would have voted against earlier. The truth is that left-leaning Specter would have voted for much of Obama's far-left agenda anyway. At least if the mainstream media approves, Sen. Specter will seek to please the liberal media consensus. Any legislation he might support under a "D" label he would have voted for anyway. His votes are unlikely to be any different.
Meanwhile, Specter is unlikely to win re-election. Arlen Specter's switch to the Democrat Party came only 13 days after former Congressman Pat Toomey announced his bid to wrestle the baton away from Specter in the Republican primary. Toomey also challenged Specter in 2004,losing the GOP nomination by only 1.7% of the vote. Many
mainstream news sources openly acknowledge that Specter is switching parties because he cannot win in the upcoming Republican primary.
According to a new Rasmussen Reports survey, Specter is viewed unfavorably by 55% of Pennsylvania Republicans. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, Specter has a higher approval rating in Pennsylvania among Democrats than among Republicans, and 43% of voters believe Specter should not be re-elected. Sen. Specter trailed Pat
Toomey 47% to 29% among Republicans. This and similar polls probably drove the Senator's defection. So, Specter's switch is a move of desperation.
Specter's long-shot "Hail Mary" pass will probably be a serious blunder. He apparently assumes that Pennsylvania voters will continue to 'pull the lever' for his familiar name. This is a gamble. Most of those who vote on habits are punching the "R" button reflexively out of loyalty to the Republican Party. Upon seeing an actual Republican on the ballot, they are likely to vote the "R" not the man. Unlike politicians who have gone independent, Specter will appear with an actual "D" next to his name.
Other voters who decide from more in-depth study of the news will feel angry betrayal. Specter is no longer "Our flawed, imperfect candidate" but 'Benedict Arlen' who has slapped Republican voters in the face.
Earlier arguments that President Bush needed Republican votes in Congress will no longer wash. So, Specter's assumption that people will keep voting for him out of habit may prove questionable.
Meanwhile, most Democrat voters in the Keystone State are in the habit of voting against Specter and for their own Democrat candidates, over many election cycles. Liberals are accustomed to demonizing Specter as more conservative than he really is, to try to get a Democrat elected. They may not trust a recent convert. Also
Specter will be 80 years old in 2010, and may not have the same appeal to youthful voters as Obama.
Most analysis of Specter's prospects in 2010 assume Democrats will vote to keep the seat in Democrat hands. That is, only election day itself matters. In fact, over the long process of a campaign, fund-raising and the labor of campaign workers are crucial. The foot soldiers of the far Left will face a situation similar to conservatives, who held their nose to vote for liberal John McCain. Liberals may have difficulty summoning the necessary enthusiasm for an ex-Republican.
Specter voted with the Republican Party 67.1% of the time in 2007 according to "On The Issues." Specter has been rated highly by a variety of pro-business and pro-free trade organizations.
However, the Senator voted for the controversial bill to give "amnesty" to illegal aliens and in favor of Federal funding for "sanctuary cities" who refuse to enforce immigration laws or cooperate with the Federal government.
In May 2006, Specter voted to allow illegal aliens to participate in social security. The organization U.S. Border Control, which opposes illegal-immigration rated Specter's voting record with only 16% approval, reflecting Specter's support for amnesty of illegal aliens. Specter has earned a 0% rating by the National Right
to Life Committee, with a life-time record of 42% from the American Conservative Union, but a 60% rating by the ACLU. Specter has received a 61% rating from the AFL-CIO.
Predicting Republican primaries can be hazardous business, as the 2008 Presidential election demonstrated. Likely candidates to send Specter off to writing his memoirs are former Congressman Pat Toomey and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.
Three-term Congressman Toomey is the favorite of many conservatives who were angered by Santorum's party-loyalty campaigning for Specter. Toomey has a 97% favorable rating from the American Conservative Union. In 2004, Toomey had challenged Specter and lost in the primary by only 1.7% of the vote after President George Bush endorsed incumbent Specter and GOP leaders like Rick Santorum campaigned for Specter. Conservatives feel Toomey could have won the primary if not for misguided loyalty to the Party over principle. Unlike Santorum, however, Toomey has never won a State-wide race in Pennsylvania. Toomey points to his victories in a liberal Congressional district to argue that he could win State-wide.
Santorum, charismatic, handsome, and well-spoken, has kept in the public eye with frequent appearances on cable television news networks like Fox. Santorum has a life-time rating by the American Conservative Union of 88 compared to Specter's 42. Having already been elected to the U.S. Senate by the entire State of Pennsylvania,
Santorum could instantly steal the previous voter-loyalty voters from Specter. Voters who reflexively vote the Party slate will support a recognized former GOP Senator.
Santorum served in the House of Representatives after defeating a Democrat in a Democrat-leaning district in 1990. In 1994 and again in 2000, he won election to the U.S. Senate. He served as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. In 2006, Santorum lost re-election to the son of popular governor Robert Casey, Sr., a
strong conservative Democrat, State Treasurer Bob Casey. Unlike Specter, Casey shared Santorum's opposition to abortion, thus removing Santorum's Pro-Life record as a factor. In a match-up with liberal, pro-abortion Specter, Santorum would not suffer that difficulty. Ironically, Santorum also suffered considerable anger from
conservatives for his misguided Party loyalty (with many others) of supporting none other than Arlen Specter in 2004.
So far, only Toomey has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Santorum has been discussed as a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. Therefore, Toomey may end up as the unchallenged Republican nominee for the Senate.