Read his statement here.
Let’s parse some of it, briefly:
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right.
Hmm. Certainly this statement is not true of his fellow Senators, and he knows it. Is it true of the Republican citizenry? Hard to tell, but I’d say “no”. I’m calling B.S. on this one, and Arlen Specter (D-PA) knows it.
Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats.
Ah ha! This is the most important sentence in his entire statement. This is a political move, pure and simple. Specter doesn’t care about party affiliation. He cares about being re-elected in 2010.
And he knows he wasn’t going to win the Republican primary against Toomey. Recent polls have had him 20 points down.
Or, as he puts it:
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 29-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
So he had to do this. He couldn't run as an independent. Beyond the legal primary issues involved, the politics were against him. This isn't like Connecticut and Lieberman where Lieberman won because of Republican votes. Republicans voted for him over their own candidate because their own candidate was so awful. Specter would have been trounced as an independent from both the left and the right.
Short term, this is a PR disaster for the Republican party. No doubt. Particularly on the 99th day of the Obama administration. I'm sure this will be hyped as part of the 100 day celebration.
Long term, hard to tell, but it may be better for the Republicans. Depends on whether Specter stays somewhat in the middle or really does move to the left between now and November 2010. Also, depends on how deep the short term effects are, and how lasting.
Until today, it appeared a near certainty that a) Toomey would defeat Specter in a Republican primary, and b) some Democrat would defeat Toomey in the general.
Toomey will now likely coast to an easy win in the Republican primary, and have a nice little war chest available for the general, which he would not have had otherwise. He'll also have a motivated base behind him.
And, instead of facing "a real Democrat", he's going to be facing Specter. Unless Specter moves to the left, it's hard to see how liberals are going to be all that excited about voting for him. The Democrat in 2004 picked up 43% of the vote. Hard to believe those 43% are suddenly going to become Specter supporters. Without a high turnout, it would seem unlikely for him to be able to hold his seat.