The media and the blogosphere are all a buzz and a twitter over the big news today that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was switching to the Democratic Party. Specter who has been a Republican since 1966 said today in a statement that since his “election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right.”
Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
Needless to say, everyone is speculating over Specter’s decision, which totally caught the Republican Party off guard. They were caught so off guard that the new party chairman, Michael Steels told CNN that “longtime Republican Sen. Arlen Specter essentially “flipped the bird” at the GOP leadership.”
Conservatives are disjointed. Limbaugh is in an uproar. The few remaining moderate Republicans are concerned and pointing the finger. Democrats are celebrating that all important 60th vote in the Senate, although Specter has warned, “I will not be an automatic 60th vote.”
Specter had been in secret talks with Senate Democratic leaders for months, according to Senate sources, but his final move to become a Democrat came after a recent poll showed him badly losing a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year. Specter talked with Obama Tuesday morning, and the president said he was “thrilled” to have Specter joining the Democratic side of the aisle. According to White House aides, Obama was handed a note by an aide that read: “Specter is announcing he is changing parties.”
Specter said Tuesday afternoon that Obama told him he would campaign for him in Pennsylvania.Â Specter will visit the White House on Wednesday and address the media with Vice President Joe Biden.
I’m not going to back track and pick apart the best and the worst of Arlen Specter’s career as a Republican in the Senate. That’s not my style. Specter still needs to win over the electorate in PA as a newbie Democrat now. We’ll see how that goes. Word has it, there is a Democrat already in the running for the seat.
Stay tuned… Never a dull moment in the great spectacle of the political theater.