Senator Specter Crosses Aisle

In a surprising and at the same not move Senator Specter announced today that he would begin caucusing with the Democrats and seek their nomination for reelection to the Senate in 2010.  Its not shocking because the Northeastern moderate Republican, a dying breed to say the least, was actually a Democrat before until he ran as a Republican for District Attorney in Philadelphia in the late 1950s.  The Democrats had a strong machine in those days that he wasn’t going to be able to rise from within through, but the machine was sufficiently hated that the Republicans could maneuver him into office.  And so, 50 years later, Arlen came back to the Democrats when it was becoming increasingly obvious he would lose the Republican nomination next spring to Grover Norquist disciple Pat Toomey.

I thought Specter would try to hang on by running as an Independent, caucusing with the Republicans the rest of this Congress and then going from there if he got reelected.  And that would have been very entertaining to see what the Democratic Party would’ve done in that general election, if they would run a weakling and hope that Specter beat Toomey with only token opposition from the left.  But this could be entertaining also.  Now we have two potentially fascinating primaries to watch.  Does a prominent full-time Democrat challenge Specter?  Can a prominent full-time Democrat challenge Specter without getting knee-capped by Ed Rendell?  I’m sure Rendell was doing a certain amount of cajoling to get Specter to do this.  As far as that goes, I’m not sure what kind of bench the Democrats have to challenge Specter with.  The statement of support from Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravehnstall was less than compelling.  But I don’t think he has a huge statewide power base yet.

And what about the Republican primary?  I doubt no one steps up to challenge Pat Toomey.  But would a heavyweight like Tom Ridge do it?  The state has more arch-conservatives than it ever used to; that’s what made Rick Santorum possible for 12 years.  But its still on balance an increadibly moderate state and if someone from the moderately conservative or moderate but definitely Republican (ie not Arlen Specter) runs and gets some funding, Pat Toomey is not assured the nomination.  And if that moderate wins the nomination and a lot of more liberal Democrats are not excited about voting for Anita Hill’s inquisitor . . .  Bottom line is I would continue to stay tuned on this one.


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