Arlen Specter’s Specter of Doom

We are getting to a point where we can count a number of Senators who will probably cease to be in the Senate, nonvoluntarily, in 2011.  Jim Bunning in Kentucky.  Maybe Chris Dodd in Connecticut.  Perhaps I’m misjudging him, and the DSCC head is giving a game face with respect to Illinois, but Roland Burris in Illinois.  And Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania.

The thing about Arlen Specter is that, rolling down the poll numbers, I doubt he’s strayed from where he was in 2004.  The Republican numbers are marginally smaller due to there being fewer Republicans and the Democratic numbers are marginally bigger due to there being more Democrats, the slimming effect with the former happens as the wavering changeovers are less “solid” to the current cause of “Republicanism” and the new adherents to “the Democracy” more inclined to support an Arlen Specter.   If he were to survive a primary challenge, he would be in good shape in the General election, as he was in 2004.  And yet…

In 2004, he barely survived that Republican Primary Challenge — one buttressed by more “Republican Moderates” (ie: non Limbaugh listeners).  The National Review threw their backing behind Pat Toomey and cover featured Specter as “The Senate’s Worst Republican”.  But the Republican Party machine pushed Specter through — Rick Santorum had considerable appeal with this base and he stumped for him, George Bush still was a reasonably popular political figure with a decent chance of winning the state and he stumped for Specter.  And they had to do so — Specter was almost assuredly going to win re-election; Toomey was assuredly going to lose re-election.  But today, The National Review audience (and “Movement” voters) makes up a larger proportion of the Republican electorate, this part of the party is incensed that Specter is in that vulnerable position of being the Deal Maker to get to 60 votes in the Senate, and there is no Bush and Santorum to hitch one’s ride to — or new equivalent.  Hence, Toomey beats Specter by double digits.

Labor offered Specter a salvo for the general election — lay down their arms if he cast what would be that magical vote #60 for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have further damaged his reputation amongst his conservative base.  I suspect that deed is already cast — he was in favor of it when he was an irrelevant vote and out of sight of political danger — not something the Republican voters can forget about, particularly given that his rationale for casting it aside (“In these tough economic times…”) isn’t an about face.  Also, it’s not going to absolve him of his orginal Obama Era Sin in being a key figure in that “Gang of 4″ (the 2 Maine Senators, the Nebraska “Democrat”, and he) in deal-making the Stimulus Bill.

He’s spurned Democratic offers for a party switch, something which would not necessitate too much massaging  of positioning (though it would take a bit) to get into Evan Bayh’s “Democratic” burgeoning Caucus of Difference Splitting Calculators (or, indeed, back to that “Gang of 4″) — an act which would steer him straight to re-election.  This, I guess, is a sign of steadfast commitment to Party Republican — he wishes to “Save the party from becoming a purely regional Southern Party”.  And it looks like he will now have to do so from the vantage point of an ex-Senator.

For a Senator in Arlen Specter’s position, after spurning as unpalatible any available paths to survival, I suggest the only real choice is to assess your committments in matters of policy, and stick to it as a Legacy Builder, leaving smiling when the Democratic Process has thrown you ashunder.  But in Specter’s case, and with respect to EFCA, the problem is I don’t know really what Specter’s position is — which means he could be doing just that and I’d never know for sure.

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