April 28, 2009
A Specter Is Haunting the Democratic Party
So let's take stock of the Defector General, Arlen Specter (D-PA, 45%), and look forward to the 2010 elections, when Specter next confronts the voters. There are of course three possibilities:
- Specter runs in the Democratic primary and wins;
- Specter runs in the Democratic primary and loses;
- Specter chooses not to run for reelection.
I believe that Pat Toomey, Specter's opponent in the 2004 Republican primary, entrepeneur, restauranteur, president of the Club for Growth, and former U.S. Representative -- who came within 1.7% of unseating Specter in the primary last time -- will be the Republican Senate nominee in 2010. To me, this is much more certain than than Specter will win the Democratic primary (though I think that's likely as well).
So I will simply assume that will be the case until some act of God or analysis by Michael Barone persuades me otherwise. So here are the three possibilities:
Specter wins the Democratic nomination in 2010
In this case, the most likely one, Pennsylvania seemingly would have a clear-cut choice between the conservative-right Toomey and the center-left Specter. But look above at Specter's percentile number... that's not his number from the American Conservative Union (as I would have used yesterday); that 45% is his score from Americans for Democratic Action, the main congressional ranking organization on the Left.
Even assuming that he moves more towards the Democratic side post-switch, Arlen Specter is highly unlikely to be a loyal liberal (he's never been a loyal anything; he's always been a problem child). Remember, he was originally a Democrat but switched in 1965 to run for District Attorney of Pennsylvania, basically for the same reason he switched today: because he couldn't have won the Democratic primary.
Specter is not going to vote party-line for the Left; therefore, he will anger much of the Left, who live by an all-or-nothing credo (just ask Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, 85% D... written out of the Democratic Party despite a much, much more liberal voting record than Arlen Specter's).
Democrats may be stupid about many things but not about politics. They are well aware that Specter's switch has nothing to do with an evolving ideology or "growing in office" and everything to do with crass political calculation, just as it did 44 years ago. Many will resent a moderate Republican, who they have trashed for decades, "stealing" the Democratic nomination, thus preventing a clean shot at conservative Toomey.
I'm sure the Democratic Party will try to lean on and force out any such candidate; but I'm equally sure that at least one Democrat will ignore the central committee and run anyway.
Therefore, whether or not Specter has a divisive primary fight, he is certain to draw a true-blue liberal opponent as a third-party candidate. So instead of Toomey vs. Specter, neat and clean, we're quite likely to have Toomey vs. Specter vs. Mr. Leftie. This may well suck much of Specter's Democratic support away from him... boosting Toomey's chances considerably.
In another boost, Toomey will certainly have access to far more Republican money in 2010 than he did in 2004 or than he would have had running against Specter in the Republican primary. Don't forget, Specter won the nomination last time only because a number of establishment-oriented elected Republicans, including Specter's conservative then-fellow Sen. Rick Santorum and even President George W. Bush, lined up behind him as the best shot at holding the seat (almost certainly true)... and Specter correspondingly sucked up nearly all the big GOP campaign cash.
Some of those same folks will continue to support Defector Specter if they think he's still the favorite to win (the donors who follow the power); but with Specter's reelection in much more doubt this time, they will hedge their bets by supporting Toomey as well. And there are plenty of big-money GOP donors who actually believe in the Republican Party -- shocking, I know -- and they will have no choice but (a) support Toomey or (b) sit on the sidelines and do nothing. An awful lot of money is going to flow into Toomey's coffers.
Finally, there is the delicate question of Specter's age and health. He is both a cancer survivor and also quite old; in 2010, Arlen Specter will be 80.
While some senators have been reelected in their 80s, that is generally when they reign in a one-party state with little opposition; think Strom Thurmond who won reelection in South Carolina at 82, 88, and 94, and Robert Byrd, reelected in West Virginia at 83 and 89. Both these Senate institutions had only token opposition, easily brushed aside, in their later elections.
But Specter's reelection is probably more like that of former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. Specter has not been convicted of any felonies, whereas Stevens -- at the time of the election -- stood convicted of seven (all since voided due to prosecutorial misconduct). But Specter has his own comparable problems, including his narrow squeaker against Toomey in 2004. With a strong challenger, Specter's prospects are nowhere near as rosy as Thurmond in 1996 or Byrd in 2006. No matter what, a race between Specter and Toomey will be close -- especially with a liberal third-party candidate.
So under this scenario, I think Toomey has his best chance to be the next Republican senator from the Keystone state.
Specter loses the nomination
Judging from Specter's oversized ego -- colossal even by United States Senate standards! --
if he loses the Democratic nomination, there is a very, very good chance he will run anyway as a third-party candidate. If he does, he will suck far more votes from the Left than the Right... though probably not that many.
NOTE: At the moment, according to the Hill newspaper, Pennsylvania election law would not allow him to run as an independent or under a third party if he competed in the Democratic primary and lost:
“It’s pretty hard to run without a party,” Specter said. “It’s always something that could be a possibility. But then I wouldn’t be in the Republican caucus -- wouldn’t have quite the standing as a Republican.”
The decision would be harder for Specter, too, because Pennsylvania state law does not allow someone who has lost a primary to run as an Independent, as Lieberman did. Specter would need to decide to run without a party in advance of the primaries.
However, Pennsylvania voters might soon recognize the registration status of "Independent," and Independent voters might be able to vote in any primary:
Specter lamented that his home state doesn’t allow for him to run as an Independent if he loses the primary. He also said he supports an upcoming effort to open the primaries to independent voters.
So it appears he will not be running as an independent if he loses the primary. (Hat tip to Mr. Michael)
I don't know how who is favored in this case, but probably whichever Democrat runs against Toomey, just because Pennsylvania is a fairly blue state; it went for Obama by 54.65% to 44.23% -- though there will be a much smaller "Obama effect" this time, as Obama is not personally on the ballot. It's not a lost cause, especially if Specter plays dog in the manger with the Democrats.
Even if he doesn't run third party, Toomey is not fated to lose; much depends upon voter sentiment after another year and a half of Obamunism: If the economy has not significantly recovered, if things aren't looking too good on the national security and foreign-policy fronts, if Barack H. Obama and Joe Biden continue making foolish, rookie mistakes and embarassing themselves, then yes, Pat Toomey has a great argument to make that one-party rule is antithetical to Americanism... the very same argument that Democrats made in 2004, by the bye.
Specter decides to hang it up
I believe this is the least likely of all scenarios by a huge margin -- for the reason of Specter's planet-sized ego, perhaps even eclipsing the overweening ego of William Shatner. (The latter is so supremely confident in his own superiority that he's even willing to satirize himself and his own arrogance -- for example, appearing as the "Big Giant Head" in 3rd Rock From the Sun.)
But if somehow Arlen Specter decided that potential humiliation from losing the race outweighed his desperate desire to cling to power at any cost, if he withdrew from the race and campaigned for the Democrat, then that would give the Democrats their best shot at holding the seat -- the equivalent of what would have happened had Specter remained a Republican, then lost the primary to Toomey. Then we really would have a clean tête-à-tête between the conservative Toomey and the liberal Whoever. In that case, barring a truly serious crisis for the Obama administration, the Democrats hold.
That would be bad, because the new senator would be very liberal, and he would assuredly be the 60th vote to crush Republican fillibusters (or 59th vote, if Sen. Norm Coleman, R-MN, 48%, somehow manages the hat trick of beating Al Franken).
We Republicans should hope, hope, hope that:
- Specter continues running for reelection;
- After a brutal primary fight, he emerges as the Democratic nominee;
- Some liberal decides to take the fight to the general as a third-party candidate;
- A goodly chunk of Democrats are disgusted enough with Specter as their nominee that they support the spoiler (on the theory that they have such a huge majority anyway, and a chance to pick up more in other states, that they can afford to jettison the former Republican);
- That Barack Obama continues to be Barack Obama;
- And most especially that Joe Biden and Obama's cabinet continue to be themselves, too.
That's not a particularly unlikely scenario; and I believe that one gives Pat Toomey a very, very good chance of taking that seat away from the liberal-fascist party of Obama.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2009, at the time of 3:54 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/3606
The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael
if he loses the Democratic nomination, there is a very, very good chance he will run anyway as a third-party candidate.
No, actually, there ISN'T a chance he'll do that... in Pennsylvania, if you lose a Primary, you're out of the race:
“It’s pretty hard to run without a party,” Specter said. “It’s always something that could be a possibility. But then I wouldn’t be in the Republican caucus — wouldn’t have quite the standing as a Republican.” The decision would be harder for Specter, too, because Pennsylvania state law does not allow someone who has lost a primary to run as an Independent, as Lieberman did. Specter would need to decide to run without a party in advance of the primaries. Specter lamented that his home state doesn’t allow for him to run as an Independent if he loses the primary. He also said he supports an upcoming effort to open the primaries to independent voters.
Now, much of that quote is outdated... it was written 'way back in, um, March. However, the law itself is still in place, so he either runs and wins as a Democrat or he's out of the running altogether.
If he runs in the Dem Primary and wins, I think the enthusiasm from Democrat Party voters would be underwhelming... and Toomey has a real shot at winning.
If he runs in the Dem Primary and loses, the Dem candidate will sweep Toomey aside in a landslide.
Run, Arlen, Run!
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