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Arlen Specter Switches Parties Again     Permalink

Sen. Arlen Specter, formerly a Democrat until 1966, then a Republican until today, has become a Democrat again. He intends to run for reelection as a Democrat in 2010. He has won election to the Senate from Pennsylvania five times and is likely to win a sixth time in 2010, especially as his likely Republican opponent is Pat Toomey, who is far too far to the right to win a general election in as blue a state as Pennsylvania.

This switch is quite unexpected as majority leader Harry Reid has been trying to convince Specter to switch parties for months, but Specter has consistently refused. It is not clear what convinced him to make the jump, but a recent poll showing Toomey beating him in the primary by more than 20 points may have convinced him this was the only way to salvage his career.

There are stories about this switch everywhere, for example, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico.

If Al Franken is eventually seated in Minnesota, as many observers expect, then the Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate and will be able to invoke cloture much more easily. It means President Obama will be able to pass his agenda much more easily now and the Republicans will be powerless to stop it.

Specter will not be a knee-jerk Democrat, just as he was never a knee-jerk Republican, but no doubt the deal he made with Reid included his voting for cloture most of the time even if he ultimately opposes the bill in question. He could always justify such a split position by saying: "This is an important issue and I believe the Senate should vote on it, not have it be blocked by procedural maneuvers."

Oral arguments in Minnesota will be heard June 1 and the decision will be probably be rendered by the state Supreme Court shortly thereafter. If the court lets the lower court decision stand, Norm Coleman will be in a real bind. No doubt the Senate Republicans will want him to go to the federal courts and keep fighting until the last dog dies. However, polls show that over 70% of Minnesotans want him to concede if the state Supreme Court rules against him. If he keeps fighting, the vast majority of Minnesota voters will regard him as a sore loser and pretty much eliminate any chance he might have to be elected governor. If he concedes after losing in the state Supreme Court, he might live to run again, but the Republican Party will be furious with him.

An interesting question is whether Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the last two Republican moderates in the Senate will now follow suit.

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