Specter on the ropes in PA

Dave Weigel at the Washington Independent takes a look at Arlen Specter’s chances for re-election in 2010, and finds plenty of evidence that he won’t make it out of the primaries.  Specter barely beat Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth in 2004, before moderate Republicans switched parties in 2008, ironically to vote for Hillary Clinton.  Unless they return in droves, Specter’s doomed — and may be doomed regardless:

The looming Toomey candidacy is a product of multiple, interlocking factors that have altered the Republican Party inside and outside of the candidate’s home state. Specter’s brand of liberal, pro-labor, pro-choice Republicanism has become less and less tenable in the Republican Party; indeed, many conservatives blame the party’s Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) for hurting their brand and paving the way for Barack Obama’s victory. This has happened in part because of the fundraising and organizational strength of conservative political groups like Toomey’s own Club for Growth, which has defeated two moderate Republican congressmen in primaries since Toomey took charge in 2005. And in Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 of the moderate, pro-choice Republicans who made up Specter’s victory margin in 2004 have responded to this by switching parties.

“These moderate republicans are gone,” said Jim Lee, the president of Susquehanna Polling and Research, in a Monday interview. “They’re just gone. That’s made matters very difficult for Arlen Specter.”

Lee’s polling firm, based in Harrisburg, Penn., has been the source of some of the worst news for Specter — some of the news that has Toomey’s supporters brimming with confidence. Its latest survey, conducted from February 23 to 29, found what Lee called “topsy turvy” numbers for Specter. While 38 percent of all voters said they’d vote to re-elect the senator, only 26 percent of Republicans agreed. Most Democrats and most voters in Philadelphia supported Specter, but in traditional Republican strongholds his support had cratered — 35 percent in rural southwest Pennsylvania, and less than 30 percent in central Pennsylvania. Majorities of self-identified liberals and moderates supported Specter. Only 26 percent of conservatives would say the same.

Those numbers reflect reality now.  A year from now, if the economy still has not rebounded, Specter may not even have enough popularity to win as a Democrat.  Right now, polling suggests that switching parties might save Specter’s hide, but again, that’s now, and not in 2010.

Dave quotes me later in the article, based on an e-mail interview we conducted:

“He’d definitely have a better time next year by switching parties,” said Jim Lee, “but I don’t think that will happen.” But conservative activists outside Pennsylvania, fed up with Specter’s enabling of Barack Obama, are ready to cut him loose. “I think Specter, [Sen. Olympia] Snowe (R-Maine), and [Sen. Susan] Collins (R-Maine) make it very difficult to rebrand the party for fiscal discipline as well as smaller government,” said Ed Morrissey, the Minnesota-based blogger for HotAir.com.

House Republicans took a big step forward in that effort by unanimously opposing Porkulus.  Senate Republicans gave it a mighty effort as well, only shedding the three Northeasterners I noted in my answer to Dave.  In a way, Specter has Obama and Nancy Pelosi to blame for his predicament.  Had Obama pushed Pelosi to include Republicans in the drafting of Porkulus, it would have easily passed both chambers of Congress and Specter’s vote would have gone almost unnoticed.  Porkulus may have been a little smaller, and more dependent on tax cuts than in the final version, but Republicans wanted to vote for a stimulus package of some sort … just not the one that got shoved down their throats.

Specter and his cohorts from Maine left themselves twisting in the wind, dependent on Obama’s success to protect their seats.  They hitched their wagon to a train conducted by an incompetent engineer.  In 2010, Specter will learn what that cost him.