Via Greg Hengler, the chairman puts on a brave face for CNN. Don’t get your hopes up — even Michael Barone’s bearish about Toomey’s chances, calling his candidacy “folly” — but TNR asks a good question: How exactly do the Democrats benefit from having Specter switch? With Toomey sure to beat him in a GOP primary, they could have handpicked any centrist Pennsylvania Democrat they like for the general and stood an odds-on shot of winning the seat. Instead, they let Specter switch for the most cynical, opportunistic reasons, a fact that’ll weigh on some Democrats next year. (Steele’s counting on it; see the last minute of this clip.) Combine the left’s ambivalence towards Specter, who was bashing “big Obama spending programs” as recently as two weeks ago, with the fact that (a) not having a primary opponent now leaves Toomey free to tack towards the center and (b) Pennsylvania Republicans will be rabidly energized to beat Specter in the general, which translates into big donations and turnout, and the race might be closer than we think. Or closer, at least, than it might have been had the Dems run two-star admiral turned congressman Joe Sestak instead. And what if Sestak or someone else decides to challenge Specter in the Democratic primary? The One’s already promised to campaign for Benedict Arlen, so presumably the party will clear a path for him, but it’s worth noting that the Kossacks are already demanding a challenger — raising the, er, specter of a senatorial version of Operation Chaos.
There are only two advantages I can think of to the Democrats having Specter on board now. One is if they’ve calculated that running an incumbent will produce more net votes than will be lost by running a guy whom the other party despises and is especially motivated to beat. The other is if they’re worried that they might lose Senate seats next year — which seems highly unlikely — and want to go for broke now by grabbing a filibuster-proof majority and ramming home all their big programs. Neither theory’s convincing to me.
Anyway. Note Steele’s point about how the party took a lot of heat for supporting him against Toomey five years ago. How did he repay them? By not even calling the RNC ahead of time to let them know he was abandoning ship. Stay classy, Arlen.