Specter's Switch: Trading Toomey for Sestak

Conservative Republican Jim Ellis and liberal Democrat Bennet Kelley present Filibanter, a combination of political filibuster and banter.

Conservative Republican Jim Ellis and liberal Democrat Bennet Kelley present Filibanter, a combination of political filibuster and banter. Read Kelley's perspective on Specter's switch here. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter may now be a Democrat, but that doesn't guarantee him reelection. Since his party-switching ploy was so obviously done to save his political skin, rank-and-file Democrats may not take kindly to the move. Gov. Ed Rendell will try to clear the Democratic primary field for his new friend—but as the outgoing top state Democrat, does he still have the juice to stop someone like Rep. Joe Sestak (D-7th) from joining the fray? After all, Sestak, a retired U.S. Navy Admiral and former Clinton Administration official, holds more than $3.3 million in campaign funds, making him a very formidable challenger to Specter. The Admiral's presence in the race could force the senator to defend himself in foreign political waters. And Specter doesn't have much of a platform from which to energize Democratic primary voters; he's a Democrat only because he knew the Republicans would throw him out. His statement yesterday that he will continue to oppose "card check," Big Labor's top legislative priority, will cost him their support and the accompanying millions of dollars, especially if the unions have a viable alternative. To think that people who opposed Specter for 30 years will suddenly turn around and embrace him just because he has a D next to his name is unrealistic, as the fate of many past party-switchers will attest. Even if Specter manages to scratch out the Democratic nomination, he will likely face former Rep. Pat Toomey, the man who scared him out of the Republican Party. Though party registration figures and recent Pennsylvania voting trends point to a clear Democratic victory next November, that win depends on the political climate. Things might not be so easy for Specter if his new president's "government here, now and everywhere" policies lose support thanks to rampaging inflation and no discernable improvements in unemployment and the macro economy. Make no mistake about Specter’s motives: He left the Republican Party because he knows, by his own admission, that he can no longer secure his party's senatorial nomination, and his best chance for survival lies with the Democrats. Any attempt to make this defection symbolic of a national political trend fails to understand both Arlen Specter and the intelligence and independence of the American people.Jim Ellis provides election analysis to private clients through the PRIsm Information Network. He formerly advised political leaders in the House Republican Majority and national party apparatus and has participated in corporate grassroots issue advocacy, political consulting and coalition programs since 1983. With Bennet Kelley he has formed Filibanter, which provides a live presentation combining political filibustering and banter.

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