Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)?

by Brien Jackson

Matt Yglesias has the Good Idea of the Day:

In the 2007-2008 congress Specter, no doubt in part as a token of appreciation for that AFL-CIO support, was the lone Republican to back EFCA. If he votes for it again this congress, it’ll be tough for him to win the primary. But if he votes against it, I think he’ll find it tough to win the general election when his support from Democratic-leaning interest groups vanishes. I doubt Specter will avail himself of this option, but the obvious solution would be to stick to his guns on EFCA and follow up his support for the stimulus by switching parties and, like Jim Jeffords, reposition ideologically somewhat. In other words, stop being a vulnerable moderate Republican and become a plain-vanilla Democrat with a safe seat. It would be pretty easy for Specter, as a Democrat, to beat GOP nominee Toomey in a general election. But beating Toomey in a primary without becoming too right-wing to carry the state will be tough.

This really would make the most sense for Specter, especially if EFCA is coming up this Congress. If EFCA comes up, Specter is in an impossible situatiom. If he votes for it, he’ll liely face a strong opponent in the primary, and probably get beat handily. The Republicans will lose his Senate seat, but the conservatives won’t care. If he votes against it, on the other hand , he’ll lose the support he’s typically enjoyed from labor in Pennsylvania and almost certainly lose in the general election. The solution to this problem is pretty obvious, become one of the leading supporters for EFCA in the Senate, and run for re-election as a Democrat.

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This won’t happen, of course, but it’s quite a bit less crazy than it sounds. Specter is already more popular with Democrats than Republicans, at least in Pennsylvania, and a recent poll showed a plurality of Democrats want Specter to remain in his seat, which is fairly remarkable considering that, you know, he’s a Republican. But ultimately it’s too brazen of a move, and you never really see politicians of that level making moves that radical.

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