Bloggers on Specter: Right furious, left wary

The online community reacted with strong but mixed opinions to Sen. Arlen Specter’s (Pa.) announcement, while both conservative and liberal bloggers debated the future of the Republican Party.

Specter’s decision to switch parties was met with a mixture of anger and enthusiasm on conservative blogs and Twitter pages, with some figures glad that Specter, a longtime bugbear, had cleared the way for the candidacy of former Club for Growth President Pat Toomey.

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“Well, it appears that the head of the Turncoat Caucus is finally making it official. Arlen Specter, we have just 10 words for you,” wrote conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Meanwhile, RedState.com founder Erick Erickson encouraged readers to donate to Toomey’s campaign — and to phone Specter’s offices to demand refunds for any donations they’d made to him.

At least one conservative blogger took aim at the Club for Growth, the fiscally conservative group that has targeted a number of centrist Republicans in primary races the last few cycles only to see its more conservative candidates go down to defeat against Democratic candidates.

“My initial reaction on hearing the news was that after generating a bunch of Democratic House seats, the Club for Growth has now produced its first Democratic senator,” wrote National Review Online’s Ramesh Ponnuru. “I assume that Specter’s votes will now move leftward.”

The Club’s vice president for government affairs, Andy Roth, responded with his own blog later in the day, accusing his critics of displaying symptoms of “Battered Republican Syndrome”: hoping that “betrayals” by Specter and other centrist Republicans would stop.

But while conservative blogs amplified their longstanding complaints about Specter, liberal blogs were slow to support the Pennsylvania senator, choosing instead to highlight what they asserted was yet another body blow for the Republican Party.

“Specter is center-right, and he’s made clear that the GOP is no longer hospitable to him,” wrote Markos Moulitsas, the founder of liberal heavyweight Daily Kos. “Sure, his party switching is rank opportunism at its worst, but he was forced to do it because his party moved far to the Right.”

David Sirota welcomed the development at Open Left, but cautioned the liberal blogosphere that Specter would be far from a reliably Democratic vote.

{mospagebreak}“Even as we applaud Specter for switching parties, we shouldn’t simply concede the primary,” Sirota argued. “Indeed, there needs to be a contested and vigorous primary, especially since Specter’s [Employee Free Choice Act] announcement means he will need pressure on his left.”

Beyond those battle lines being drawn, another subplot to the Specter reaction came on the microblogging website Twitter, where news of the switch — and reaction to it — spread quickly even before Specter could release a statement.
Several Democratic lawmakers’ early reaction to the news was summed up in a single word: “Wow.”

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE (D-Mo.) Tweeted: “Specter to switch parties? Wow.”

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“Whoa, Arlen Specter is switching to Democratic Party after three decades in GOP,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D-Fla.) Tweeted.

Another freshman Democrat in the House stated what was obvious from watching cable television and most political websites.

“Everyone distracted by Specter switch today,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) wrote in part of a Twitter post.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks MORE (D-Va.), who caught up on the news later in the day, was a bit more conciliatory.

“Sen. Specter always adds a respected, moderate voice to debates. His decision does not diminish the need for bipartisanship here in DC,” he Tweeted.

Republicans lawmakers and candidates, by contrast, pounced on the news.

“It would be more newsworthy if Specter finally became a Republican,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) Tweeted.

Potential presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) also pounced on the perceived opportunism in Specter’s announcement, Tweeting: “Arlen Specter makes case for term limits … elected office not about preserving power … about representing people.”

Toomey himself jumped in as well, after having been taken to task by Specter on Twitter for the past several weeks.

Toomey posted a Tweet on Tuesday afternoon asking for donations in the race, even using Specter’s name as a tag, meaning Twitter users who searched the site for Specter news would come across Toomey’s dispatch.

Other online reactions had some fun with Specter’s new political identity.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) referred to Specter as “(?-Pa.)” in a Tweet, while libertarian blogger Michael C. Moynihan referred to Specter as “(D!-Pa.)” in a blog posting for Reason magazine.