Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is finished with the Republican Party. Yesterday, the fifth longest serving Senator in the Senate announced that he is switching parties and will run for re-election as a Democrat. His move to the Democrat Party, coupled with a likely Al Franken victory via the courts in Minnesota, will give Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 seat majority in the United States Senate.
Political pundits from across the country have begun to weigh in on the political impact of Senator Specter’s decision. As one would expect, it didn’t take long for the media to paint Specter’s switch as a serious blow to the GOP and another sign that the Republican Party is only focused on social issues. Specter supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, while most Republicans do not.
Senator Specter said in his press conference that the right-wing of the Republican Party was trying to “purify” the party. Specter also admitted in his press conference that, after looking at recent poll and traveling the state, it became clear to him that he would not be able to win a Republican primary. A recent Quinnipiac poll, showed Senator Specter trailing his primary opponent Pat Toomey, 41% to 27%.
In 2004, Senator Specter barley won his primary against former Republican Congressman Pat Toomey by a margin of 1.7 percent. It is widely believed that the last-minute endorsement from then-President George W. Bush helped Specter win his last primary over Toomey.
In that election, Toomey didn’t campaign against Specter using social issues, but instead, he focused on the difference between Specter and himself on fiscal issues. Specter was one of three Republican Senators who voted with the Democrats on the massive bailout this past February. It was widely thought that, after Specter voted for the bailout, Toomey would win the upcoming primary against the Senator.
In a phone call with The Iowa Republican, Congressman Steve King said, “The specter of Toomey’s campaign for Senate chased Senator Specter from the Republican Party.” Congressman King also wondered what the people who went to Pennsylvania in 2004 to help Specter win his primary think about his switch to the Democratic Party. King added, “People should endorse candidates who stand with them on principle, not just because they are Republican.”
Specter’s decision considerably limits the effectiveness of the Republicans in the United States Senate. When asked about Specter’s move to the Democratic Party, Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley said, “It’s disappointing. It should inspire all of us Republicans to work hard to rebuild a majority party.”
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