Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The big news today for the Beltway bloviators and media villagers is that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that the Republican Party has abandoned moderate Republicans like him for the Club for Growth (Grover Norquist) conservatives. "There ought to be a rebellion, there ought to be an uprising" against these Club for Growth conservatives by Republicans, said Specter. He instead announced that he is joining the Democratic Party.
The chattering class immediately started hyperventilating about how this will give the Democrats a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority in the Senate once Al Franken dispatches sore loser Norm Coleman in the Minnesota Supreme Court. This is why the "conventional wisdom" of the Beltway media villagers is anything but. They are almost always wrong.
First, Senator Specter's statement h/t talkingpointsmemo.com (emphasis added):
April 28, 2009
Statement by Senator Arlen Specter
I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.
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.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.
I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.
I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania's economy.
I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.
While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords' switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy's statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.
Got that Beltway media villagers? "I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture." No sh*t, Sherlock. As Josh Marshall commented at talkingpointsmemo.com ("Not Everyone on Board"), "Specter's reputation as a feckless equivocator and a political opportunist is well-earned."
Secondly, a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority for cloture is far from certain when there are fifteen or so moderate Democrats led by Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) who have formed a quasi-Blue Dog Coalition in the Senate. Any one of these senators is perfectly willing to stab the Obama administration in the back if it personally benefits him or her back home. Bayh announces ‘working group’ of centrist Senate Dems
Specter's move is naked political opportunism at its worst. Here's why:
A new Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania finds that Arlen Specter appears to be in serious trouble going into his 2010 primary against conservative challenger Pat Toomey.
The numbers: Toomey 51%, Specter 30%.
Toomey, a former Congressman, previously ran against Specter in the 2004 primary, and made it into a 51%-49% race. Specter has since provided Toomey a huge opening this time thanks to his vote for the stimulus bill. And Pennsylvania is a closed-primary state, too, meaning that Specter faces a conservative base vote.
Specter has never been a reliable vote in the Senate for either political party. He often says one thing and then votes the other way. His only question is always "how will this affect Arlen?" So I would temper any enthusiasm you may have for Arlen Specter joining the Democratic Party today. This guy is not a team player. Tomorrow he could just as easily elect to go somewhere else. (
And he could easily pull a Joe Lieberman after losing a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. I forgot that Pennsylvania has a "sore loser law" which prevents a primary loser from pulling a Joe Lieberman.)
The only correct thing for Arlen Specter to have done today was to announce his impending retirement. He has earned it. But since he will not go quietly into retirement, Democrats will have to send him on his way. I strongly encourage a young up-and-comer Democrat in Pennsylvania to run for the U.S. Senate. And don't let the powers that be in the Democratic Party try to tell you that there shouldn't be a Democratic primary. Whatever promises Vice President Joe Biden may have made to his old friend Arlen Specter are not binding on rank and file Democrats in Pennsylvania who deserve a reliable Democratic Senator.
NB: According to the MSNBC blog First Read Arlen Specter made history today by becoming the first-ever senator to switch directly from the Republican to the Democratic Party.