The spectre of a bulletproof majority in the Senate came much, much closer to reality as Arlen Specter (R-PA) became Arlen Specter (D-PA). The reason was simple – he already has a strong challenger announced for the Republican Senate nomination next year of the form of former Rep. and Club for Growth exec Pat Toomey. Toomey has enjoying leads on the order of 50%-30% in early polling in the closed primary.
The Democrats haven’t yet thrust any particular candidate for the seat forward, but it’s still an open field for interested candidates – Specter has announced his intention to run in the Democratic primary. For a while, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was angling for the Democratic nod before eventually deciding to re-up with his cable network.
He barely fended off a spirited primary challenge from Toomey in 2004 before coasting to a win in the general election. While his chances of winning in the shrinking Pennsylvania Republican Party base is also shrinking, he is thought to have a great chance of pulling votes from independents and moderates of both parties.
“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right,” said Specter in a statement. “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.”
He blamed most of his current trouble within the Republican Party on one vote. “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.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is said to already be on the task of fitting Specter into the party, and he has already been welcomed with open arms by President Barack Obama. Specter even said Obama will campaign for him in the primary.
RBR/TVBR observation: If Al Franken (D-MN) is seated, which seems likely, the united Dems will be able to turn back a filibuster. Although Specter promises to remain an independent voice, you’d think he’d be trying to earn some goodwill from his new party to translate into campaign cash next year.
Whatever happens, the drama factor is being ratcheted up to glorious heights, just the kind of attention that will attract national cash for broadcasters, especially the ones with a great track record of providing local news and information.