Bad year for party switchers

posted at 8:48 am on June 2, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

One difference should be noted between two party switchers in Congress this term, Arlen Specter in the Senate and Parker Griffith in the House.  Specter bailed out of the GOP in order to join the majority as well as to avoid what looked like a brutal primary challenge from a former Republican Congressman.  Griffith switched out of frustration with Democratic leadership to join the minority, and at the time didn’t appear to be worried about a primary challenge.  Those differences are real, but in the end, purely academic — since both ended up getting the boot in the primaries from challenges within their new parties:

Five months after U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith switched parties, the voters of North Alabama switched congressmen.

On Tuesday, Republican challenger and long-time conservative Mo Brooks handily won the three-way GOP primary, earning 35,712 votes, or 51 percent, and sending the incumbent home. Brooks avoided a runoff by about 600 votes.

Griffith received 23,495 votes, or 33 percent, and former Navy pilot Les Phillip earned 11,066 votes, or 16 percent.

As with Specter, the party switch itself became an issue against the newly-minted Republican:

Throughout the campaign, Brooks had repeated a similar theme of America at risk due to budget deficits and a drift to socialism. But most of his best lines were aimed at his chief opponent, as he labeled Griffith “arrogant,” an unprincipled “chameleon” and a poll-driven “parrot.”

Griffith, who had fired back that Brooks was a “career politician,” instead campaigned on various Republican talking points, arguing  for a reduced rate of corporate income tax, a moratorium on the capital-gains tax, the repeal of recent healthcare reforms and the repeal of the estate tax.

Griffith apparently didn’t do much homework before switching parties.  He failed to engage local party leaders, who wound up issuing endorsements for the other two candidates in a pointed slap at Griffith.  Griffith had the backing of the national Republican establishment, which was grateful for his switch even if it didn’t change the calculus of floor votes in the House as Specter’s switch did (at least in theory) for the Democrats in the Senate.  But this isn’t a good year for establishment candidates, either, as Griffith found out.

This district hasn’t elected a Republican in over a hundred years, but the primaries indicate that could change.  Brooks won 7,000 more votes in the GOP primary than Democratic winner Steve Raby won in his primary contest.  The level of voter enthusiasm and opposition to the current Democratic establishment could carry Brooks and the Republicans to a historic victory — and this time, with a real Republican candidate.


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Nobody likes a quitter. Enough said.

Johnnyreb on June 2, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Oh well, Griffith was a good news story when we really needed it. Enjoy private life.

myrenovations on June 2, 2010 at 8:52 AM

But most of his best lines were aimed at his chief opponent, as he labeled Griffith “arrogant,” an unprincipled “chameleon” and a poll-driven “parrot.”

For a minute there I could have sworn that you were talking about Florida senate candidate Charlie Crist. Crist changed to an Independent when it was obvious that Marco Rubio was going to kick his butt in the republican primary.

Nelsa on June 2, 2010 at 8:56 AM

Switching parties means you were leaving a situation you were not going to win anyway. Just prolongs the inevitable in most cases. Crist is the next to learn when you are a loser, you are a loser.

volsense on June 2, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Never trusted Griffith anyway. Once a libtard Dem, always a libtard Dem.

GO, MO!!!

GrannyDee on June 2, 2010 at 8:59 AM

As a Florida absentee voter, I would invite Charlie Crist to bite my crust.

seejanemom on June 2, 2010 at 8:59 AM

Neither party has a clue about the public anger out here, they should count themselves lucky that we aren’t the type of people to hotwire tanks and roll them toward the capitol buildings.

Bishop on June 2, 2010 at 9:00 AM

This election, more than any in my lifetime, is shaping up to be a clear-cut, straight forward choice between progressivism and conservatism.

The far left is mobilizing to win the Democrat primaries, but they really have no clue how massive their a** whooping is going to be this November.

American Elephant on June 2, 2010 at 9:03 AM

I remember Griffith’s party switch, as I recall he did so with everything to lose and nothing to gain politically. He did so apparently as an act of pronciple in protest to The One’s socialist policies, the exact cause of many HotHead rants in these very threads.

Griffith appears to be one of a dying breed in the mold of the great Scoop Jackson, a dedicated patriotic american who put country before party. To me its a shame to see him go, but this is war, and we can chalk Griffith up as collateral damage. I wish him well.

Archimedes on June 2, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Would you be happy if your sister brought home Andrew Sullivan?

Mr. Joe on June 2, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Who were the last party switchers to win re-election?

Jeffords? Did he win again after switching parties? Who else in recent years won re-election?

Abby Adams on June 2, 2010 at 9:10 AM

Nobody likes a quitter. Enough said.

Johnnyreb on June 2, 2010 at 8:51 AM

This isn’t a Palin thread. /

txag92 on June 2, 2010 at 9:16 AM

It’s not wonder they booted him in the primary. Anyone who could stay Dem during the unprincipled caterwauling of the Bush years, the time history will remember as the period in which all things non-Dem became “just like Hitler”, is probably best booted.

Lehosh on June 2, 2010 at 9:18 AM

As a Florida absentee voter, I would invite Charlie Crist to bite my crust.

seejanemom on June 2, 2010 at 8:59 AM

Saw Chris Matthews for a moment on Morning Joe. Seems Crist will win because Marco and the Republicans like swimming in oil at Florida beaches. Actually I don’t know why Matthews is invited to predict anything: according to him the Republicans aren’t going to pick up one Senate seat.

Marcus on June 2, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Abby Adams on June 2, 2010 at 9:10 AM

Lieberman from Dem to Indy. ( he is still a dem and caucuses with the Dems.)

Charlie Crist will not tell anyone who will caucus with. He will wait for a poll because he has no priniples.

Nelsa on June 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM

The national GOP gets its nose bloodied again. I don’t know what it will take for them to get the message, but we’re not following their directions any more. Mo Brooks will be a good representative.

Bugler on June 2, 2010 at 9:38 AM

As a Florida absentee voter, I would invite Charlie Crist to bite my crust.

seejanemom

If Crist would walk by my stationary vehicle, I would not lower my window to speak to him.

However, he could kiss my glass!

honsy on June 2, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Abby Adams on June 2, 2010 at 9:10 AM

Lieberman from Dem to Indy. ( he is still a dem and caucuses with the Dems.)

Charlie Crist will not tell anyone who will caucus with. He will wait for a poll because he has no priniples.

Nelsa on June 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM

The last Dem to Republican switcher to get re-elected was one of Louisiana’s House members, Rodney Alexander, in 2004.

The reason it worked in his case is that Louisiana Democrats tend to be Blue Dogs and he positioned his party switch as him being unable to stomach what the national Dems were leaning on him to support, such as John Kerry for President.

He was also at the end of his first term in the House when he switched, so it wasn’t a blatant political move to save his career from bad polling a la Specter.

teke184 on June 2, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Rep. Phil Gramm,D-Tx, was leader of the “Boll Weevils”– who were, unlike today’s “blue dogs”,true conservative Democrats in the House. They generally voted with Pres. Reagan against their leadership.

In 1982, Gramm switched to the GOP but he did it by resigning his house seat and running for it as a Republican. He won big time. Later he became one of Texas’ best senators.

cartooner on June 2, 2010 at 9:47 AM

Crist is waiting to tell folks who is is caucasing with in DC because he is shamelessly waiting to see who has the majority in the Senate. If he wins, then he is suddenly going to discover he wants to caucus with the majority party, no matter which one. This guy is more transparent than Obama claimed he would be if he won the Presidency.

karenhasfreedom on June 2, 2010 at 9:50 AM

I remember Phil Graham in those days. I lived in his district which was a weird gerrymandering from College Station all the way up to the conservative side of Fort Worth Texas, hundreds of miles away from College Station.

THis weird district, which at times was only a few hundred feet wide, I believe, was gerrymandered to protect Jim Wright’s seat in the DFW area. At the time, Jim Wright was the House Majority leader until he had to resign becuase lobbyists were buying his books by the caseload just to line Wright’s pockets.

karenhasfreedom on June 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Democrat Politician: I am finished if I run as a democrat. There is no tolerance for moderates(squishes), so I can’t run as a centrist democrat. I can’t even run as a Republican. Those right wingers won’t trust a former democrat. So I am screwed no matter what I do.

Republican Politician: Hey I don’t want to be a Specter. And I don’t want to be Crist. Unless I am a right winger, I am screwed.

Thank you GOD.

antisocial on June 2, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Griffith apparently didn’t do much homework before switching parties.

You can say that again. Alabama is an open-primary state, meaning that angry Democrats could request a GOP ballot and vote against Griffith.

The Other McCain on June 2, 2010 at 10:11 AM

It’s a shame because Griffith is a good guy and it would have been nice if he’d been rewarded with the chance to defend the seat as a republican. On the other hand, I have little sympathy for any incumbant who gets turned away at any point in the process, especially this time around. He will move on to bigger and better things and we’ll get a good solid conservative elected to that seat. In the end it will be better for him and better for us.

dczombie on June 2, 2010 at 10:44 AM

karenhasfreedom on June 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Yes, it was a weird shaped district that stretched from my house (at the time) in Ft.Worth south for over 170 miles to my Dad’s house in Conroe! BTW, Wright became Speaker of the House after Tip O’Neill before his book scandal forced him to resign.

cartooner on June 2, 2010 at 11:07 AM

“On Tuesday, Republican challenger and long-time conservative Mo Brooks handily won the three-way GOP primary, earning 35,712 votes, or 51 percent, and sending the incumbent home.”

..and there’s a problem here?

The War Planner on June 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Which is the bigger kiss of death; being endorsed by Barack Obama or being endorsed by the national Republican party?

neobadger on June 2, 2010 at 11:57 AM

I remember Griffith’s party switch, as I recall he did so with everything to lose and nothing to gain politically. He did so apparently as an act of pronciple in protest to The One’s socialist policies, the exact cause of many HotHead rants in these very threads.

Griffith appears to be one of a dying breed in the mold of the great Scoop Jackson, a dedicated patriotic american who put country before party. To me its a shame to see him go, but this is war, and we can chalk Griffith up as collateral damage. I wish him well.

Archimedes on June 2, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Yep. And this seat is now at least 50/50 likely to go back to democrat. Oh well.

funky chicken on June 2, 2010 at 2:07 PM