So pardon me if I'm a wee bit skeptical about this.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.But does he really mean it?
Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)
"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."
He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.
The precariousness of Specter's political position -- a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state -- was on display earlier this year when he was one of three GOP Senators to back President Barack Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan. That vote was strongly condemned by conservative Republicans and Toomey used that vote as the launching pad for his candidacy.
Because of the shrinking Republican vote in the state, Specter was seen as a dead man walking politically in the primary with polling showing him trailing Toomey by ten or more points. The bar for Specter to run as an independent was also extremely high due to the rules governing such a third party candidacy.
That left a Democratic candidacy as Specter's best option if he wanted to remain in the Senate beyond 2010.
Synopsis: As an independent minded voter, I'm admittedly pleased at Specter's denouncement of the GOP as a party that's "moved far to the right". What's troubling however is the context in which this is occurring. PA (like much of the country) is continually turning more and more Democratic, as voter registrations and the like would indicate. There's also the small matter that Specter wouldn't likely win the GOP nomination in 2010, largely because he's seen as being too moderate. So, the obvious question is, is this guy switching sides because he's genuinely aligned with the Dems, or simply because he wants to be employed another 6 years?
Final Verdict: Grand Hu$tle. Much like a pro athlete who only realizes the folly of dogfighting once he gets caught and convicted, Specter seeing the light when his job depends on it is a textbook CYA maneuver. Had he done this in, say, 2005, I might have been convinced. Jumping overboard when "the ship be sinkin'" isn't necessarily noble, nor laudable. Of course, the Dems will take him with open arms and no qualms because he inches them thismuchcloser to a Filibuster Proof Majority, which was the whole point all along. Chew on that one, Judd Gregg.
Question: What do you think of Arlen Specter's decision to get on the ObamaTrain?
Specter To Switch Parties [WashPost]