The Specter Spectacle: Act II

As Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) continues to question whether Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) is a real Democrat yet, was it wise of the newest Democrat to declare on "Meet The Press" on Sunday that he never promised to be a loyal Democrat?

One thing is clear amid the settling dust that follows Specter's explosive defection last week: His party switch has produced the same effect that the AIG bonuses did — anger in both parties.

As I described in my column last week, Republicans are forming two camps: the purists and the moderators. One group seeks to cleanse all centrists like Specter and couldn't be happier to see him go; the other wants the party to reach back to the middle and win over independents and swing voters once more.

Democrats, on the other hand, are welcoming Specter to the party when speaking at the microphones but are grumbling that his deal to retain seniority threatens theirs and they won't have it. Sestak has not ruled out a primary challenge to Specter.

Big Tent Republicans like Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah) and George Voinovich (Ohio) both criticized the Club for Growth for litmus-testing the party's candidates in primaries in blue states, which has resulted in general-election losses to Democrats. But after Specter voted against Democrats in his first week in the party, how long before Democrats begin litmus-testing him as well? And how about those loyal Democrats Specter aims to push past in pursuit of the coveted Appropriations chairmanship?

As Alexander Bolton reported in our paper last week, the deal that party leaders cut with Specter isn't going over so well among the rank and file. “I won't be happy if I don't get to chair something because of Arlen Specter,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who is on the Appropriations Committee and fifth in seniority among Democrats. “I'm happy with the Democratic order, but I don't want to be displaced because of Arlen Specter.”

Now comes the news that Pennsylvania Republicans just may have wised up to the fact that former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — who was set to defeat Specter in the GOP primary — can't win the general. They want to recruit popular former Gov. Tom Ridge. Ridge is interested, which means Specter hasn't dodged a bullet at all.


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