Cillizza: Arlen Specter to Switch Parties
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 07:59:03 AM EDT
Chris Cillizza has the huge scoop:
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, according to sources informed on the decision.
Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)
Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.
More as we have it...
Update [2009-4-28 12:14:53 by Jonathan Singer]: I've said before that Arlen Specter does not win reelection as a Republican, and that his only path to a sixth term would be to switch his affiliation in the Senate from the Republican caucus to the Democratic caucus. It remains to be seen exactly how this plays out -- if the state Democratic Party coalesces around his nomination (and you would think it would given the close relationship Specter has with Democratic Governor Ed Rendell), and what, if any, seniority Specter is given by Senate Democrats (will he get a chairmanship of a full committee, a subcommittee, ...?). What is clear from Specter's statement, reprinted in full below the fold, is that this move won't change his position on all issues, including (and particularly) card check. But still more as we hear it
Update [2009-4-28 12:16:59 by Todd Beeton]:Per CNN, President Obama just heard about this switch this morning and called Specter and told him: "You have my full support and we're thrilled to have you."
Update [2009-4-28 12:27:36 by Todd Beeton]:Bill Schneider on CNN: "This is a sign that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it is making itself uncompetitive in significant parts of the country like the Northeast."
CNN just showed footage of Sen. Specter being applauded by constituents outside his office. When asked "what do you have to say to your constituents?" he replied "I don't have to say anything to them, they've just said it to me." Specter will be holding a press conference shortly.
Update [2009-4-28 12:39:29 by Jonathan Singer]: Watching the dourness on Fox News right now is great, the extent to which they are trying to downplay this news. To take one example, Brett Baier just said "Republicans never really felt Specter was on their side." Fine. But he was. He was a Republican who was elected on Ronald Reagan's wings in 1980 and has been a member of the GOP in good standing ever since. Republicans, and their allies in the conservative media, may want us to think this isn't a big deal, but it is.
Update [2009-4-28 12:43:8 by Todd Beeton]:I'm curious when Specter intends to make this switch official. Apparently MSNBC is reporting that Specter will now caucus with the Dems. For me, I greet this news with mixed emotions. From a strict numbers perspective, more Ds is a good thing. But let's face reality: Specter has a lot to prove and a lot to repent for and he'd be the worst of the Democrats on that primary ballot.
My concern now is that Democrats will be reluctant to challenge him in the Democratic primary or will be pushed out. That is the worst thing that can happen. We need a strong Pennsylvania Democrat to challenge Specter in the primary so he is motivated to be halfway decent as a sitting Senator in the meantime. And I need someone to give my money to because Specter won't be getting any.
Update [2009-4-28 12:49:41 by Josh Orton]: MSNBC is reporting that the Senate Dem caucus will back Specter in the primary. Between their support and Rendell's, I don't see a competitive primary happening.
Update [2009-4-28 13:0:45 by Todd Beeton]:Andrea Mitchell: "Arlen Specter is now officially a Democrat."
I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard
for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican
Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While
I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who
I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised
independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.
I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.
I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.
I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.
While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.