The Washington Post has it:
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to sources informed on the decision.
Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken’s victory in the state Supreme Court.)
“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter in a statement. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”
This changes everything.
UPDATE: First, there’s the question of what Specter’s switch puts back on the table–since he doesn’t have to pander to the right wing of his party anymore, will he vote more liberally? Will it be easier for the Democrats to win him over on key votes now?
Second, this puts even greater pressure on Norm Coleman to step aside in Minnesota–Al Franken would give the Democrats a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority, thus making the resolution of MN’s Senate contest even more important.
Third, this throws the entire PA-SEN race into disarray. Will more Republicans join Pat Toomey in vying for the GOP nod? Will any Democrats challenge Specter in the Democratic primary?
If a Democrat challenges Specter from the left, could he be pressured to vote more liberally–like how Toomey’s challenge from the right pressured Specter to vote more conservatively?
We have no answers yet, but this is undeniably good news for the Democrats and bad news for the GOP. I wonder how small the Republicans’ tent can get–it’s already looking pretty tiny from where I’m standing.
UPDATE II: MSNBC is reporting that one of the conditions of Specter’s switch is that nobody is allowed to challenge him for the Democratic nomination. I’m not exactly happy about that, but I guess I’ll accept it.
And I want to remind everyone that Specter won’t be a party-line vote–in fact, I predict there will be a number of times he votes against the Democratic caucus, just as he voted against the GOP caucus. He won’t be a reliable 60th vote, but he will be a 60th vote, and that’s what matters.
UPDATE III: The entire conservative movement is currently having a sour grapes party; you can practically smell the vinegar from here.
Even though Specter’s switch puts the GOP’s Senate caucus at 40 members, the fewest they’ve had since January of 1979, they’re still pretending that Specter’s departure is a good thing.
Because sitting by and watching all the moderates abandon your party in droves has done wonders for the GOP since 2005, right?
UPDATE IV: Whether or not you think this is good news for the GOP depends on whether or not you think Pat Toomey can beat Arlen Specter.
Problem is, PA has been trending bluer for a long time. For instance, compare the results of the 2000 Senate election to the 2006 Senate election:
Rick Santorum: 52.4%
Ron Klink: 45.5%
Rick Santorum: 41.3%
Bob Casey: 58.6%
Or look at how many Congressional seats have changed hands in the past 4 years alone:
Or look at the popular vote shift between the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections:
No matter how you look at it, PA has been trending bluer in the past few years; it isn’t particularly fertile ground for Republicans, let alone far-right Republicans like Pat Toomey.
Plus, Specter has the advantage of being a longtime incumbent, is regarded as a well-respected Senate moderate, and his party switch is already being spun as him putting his beliefs ahead of partisanship.
Toomey won’t win. He might be more popular than Specter among Pennsylvania Republicans, but Pennsylvania Republicans haven’t been the majority in Pennsylvania for a good long time.
UPDATE V: More proof that PA has been getting more hostile toward Republicans:
Arlen Specter: 61%
Bill Lloyd: 35%
Arlen Specter: 52.6%
Joe Hoeffel: 42%