The Specter Of A Primary
Arlen Specter knew that he was going to get a primary contender, and he supported the stimulus bill anyway (after extracting a bunch of concessions). The fact that Pat Toomey, who came this close to beating him in 2004, had dropped out of the race prior to the stimulus conversations probably made it easier for him to make the decision. No more, however:
Former Congressman Pat Toomey (R, PA-15), current Club for Growth President, just announced on Bobby Gunther Walsh’s 1-On-1 Show, WAEB, 790AM, that a Primary challenge to Senator Arlen Specter is “now back on the table.”
Mr. Toomey acknowledged that “Senator Specter cast the deciding vote on the very worrisome stimulus Bill, when he could have negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama for more productive tax cuts and less wasteful spending.” Pennsylvanians need to do some soul searching about who will really represent us in the Senate.
There are enough crazies in the Republican Party in Pennsylvania - most of the sane ones left for the Democrats - that Toomey could win. And when I say "win", I mean win the primary and the right to be pummeled worse than Rick Santorum in the general election. So I can think of worse things happening.
The flip side, of course, is that Specter will need to be more mindful of protecting his right flank, making him less likely to side with Democrats on a lot of policy between now and the primary. But he's a stubborn mule, and if it suits him I don't see him totally breaking away.
...no matter the opponent, Specter's re-election chances are in peril. Jonathan Singer has an interesting theory:
So what can Specter do at this point? It seems unlikely to me that he would opt against running for a sixth term in the Senate -- that just doesn't seem like the Arlen Specter we have all come to know over the years. But he has to realize that he wouldn't have much of a shot in a Republican primary against Toomey, even as he would would have a shot at reelection running as an independent (nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans want to see him reelected).
I don't know enough about Pennsylvania election law to determine whether Specter could pull a Joe Lieberman -- running in his party's primary, but holding out the possibility of running on his own ticket in the event he lost the primary -- but I'd imagine that Specter's team already knows the answer. It may be that Specter would even forgo the attempt to run in a Republican primary against Toomey or a similarly strong conservative. Then again, Specter isn't one who has tended to give up on fights in his career, so maybe he would opt to enter what appears to be a nearly unwinnable primary just to prove his political courage. Either way, this is shaping up to be one of the most interesting races of the cycle.