A year ago today, Arlen Specter switched political parties after seeing primary polling results that made him too nervous to fight Pat Toomey for his seat. Now facing a tough primary fight as a Democrat, Specter tells the Morning Call that he may have made a mistake:
For three decades, Specter prided himself on being a coalition builder, relishing a self-appointed role as a liaison striving to find the moderate solutions to liberal and conservative extremes.
Now as a Democrat, that role has vanished. For that reason alone, Specter has questioned his storied party switch.
”Well, I probably shouldn’t say this,” he said over lunch last month. ”But I have thought from time to time that I might have helped the country more if I’d stayed a Republican.”
Colby Itkowitz could hardly have written a more flattering portrayal of Specter. The article paints Specter as a coalition-builder who sacrificed himself for the good of the country by defying his party’s leadership in supporting the stimulus bill in February 2009. For that act of political independence, the GOP turned on Specter and backed Toomey instead. Rather than kneel at the feet of conservatives, as Itkowitz accuses John McCain of doing, Specter bravely returned to the Democratic Party.
There are several problems with this report. First, the same GOP backed Specter against Toomey in 2004 in the primary, narrowly rescuing him from defeat. For that act of loyalty, Specter backed a Porkulus bill that would have otherwise failed — and the failure would have forced Democrats to compromise with Republicans in Congress on a bipartisan bill. Instead, Congress passed a spending spree that will cost over $830 billion — all borrowed — and none of which has had any effect on the economy. That was why Republicans opposed the bill in the first place, and Specter’s Me Moment allowed that albatross to be hung around America’s neck.
Furthermore, Toomey had already planned to run against Specter in this cycle, and Specter certainly knew it. Moreover, Toomey had built more credibility in the intervening five years as a pro-growth, small-government candidate. And even with that, the national GOP started pressuring Toomey to pull out of the race in March and April of 2009, with none other than the NRSC and John Cornyn warning Toomey that national resources wouldn’t get spent in Pennsylvania if he managed to beat Specter in the primary. The notion that the national party abandoned Specter is pure myth, originating with Specter and amplified by Itkowitz.
While Specter spends the day involved in his little pity party, Toomey is conducting a “money bomb” fundraiser which has already hit six figures. Ask yourself which party you’d rather attend.