So amongst all this craze about swine flu and people washing their hands, there was a pretty big shakeup this week in Washington. Republican Senator Arlen Specter announced he was joining the Democratic party. This defection has the potential to cause a seismic shift in the balance of power in the Senate. In landing Specter, the nouveau rich (the Democrats) are only getting richer. Here is a bit of analysis on this deal.
First off the Republicans have got to be kicking themselves right now. Specter is a huge player to lose for nothing. Elected to the senate in 1980, he is the fifth oldest senator, and the 12th most senior member of the U.S. Senate. As recently as 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s 10 best senators. On top of all that, he is absolutely adorable.
If the Republicans had been smart, they would have worked out a trade before allowing him to hit free agency. As recently as four months ago I heard rumblings of a trade that would have sent Specter and Pat Roberts to the Dems for Ted Kennedy. If the Reps had traded Specter when his trade value was highest in 2006 they could have easily landed a package which could have included a young upstart senator from Illinois by the name of Barack Obama. Instead they sat on their hands and landed nothing.
As for Specter choosing the Dems as his next team, this is not as much a surprise as you think. Specter started his political career as a Dem, before moving to the GOP in 1966. He has always been considered a moderate by his peers in the senate. He has been known to be critical of his former party. He publicly called the impeachment of Bill Clinton unfair, he called George Bush out for leaking intelligence, and earlier this year he was one of only three GOP Senators to vote in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which was favored by President Obama. He took alot of heat within his party for that. It was even reported that he was not invited to Orrin Hatch’s annual President’s Day Potluck. With all of this crap going on, was it really a huge surprise when Specter said he was leaving because he was “increasingly at odds with Republican philosophy”? Who didn’t see that coming?
The only real question here is what took him so long? He has been at odds with his party for years. Why now?
Specter has slowly but surely been losing his stranglehold on his senate seat. In 1998 he had 67% of the vote in the Republican Primary, in 2004 that number dipped to 51%, next year’s numbers projected to even less. Specter himself indicated that it would be very difficult for him to win next year’s Republican Primary. Specter has been so desperate to regain approval in his state that in 2007 he spent a bunch of time trying to prove that the New England Patriots cheated to win the SuperBowl in the previous year. Who did the Pats beat that year? Specter’s Philadelphia Eagles.
So after taking stock of some early poll numbers Specter had to weigh his options. A Pennsylvania team (the Pittsburgh Steelers) won the SuperBowl last year, so no cheating investigations this year. Specter was going to wrestle Harry Reid to gain some exposure, but opted out after remembering that Reid’s nickname is ‘The Hammer.” With very few options remaining, Specter decided the time was right to jump ship.
When it all comes down to it, this was all about votes in the end. This was not about philosophy, or taking a moral stand, or any of that noble stuff. This is about votes.
Sidenote: I wasn’t going to post today, but I had to post this for Shirlann. Love you cousin.