Sen. Arlen Specter: An Offer You Can't Refuse

The Hill recently reported that Democrats Vice President Biden, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and Penn. Senator Bob Casey Jr. have all tried to convince Senator Arlen Specter (R) to switch parties and caucus with the Democrats. Arlen Specter is a moderate in an increasingly conservative party but represents an increasingly Democratic state. The fact that this information became public is very interesting. It may be that the Democrats are making Specter an offer he can't refuse.

Switching parties could be mutually beneficial to both Sen. Specter and the Democratic Party. If Al Franken gets seated, Arlen Specter would give the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority of 60. It would be a huge boon to Democrats. Sen. Specter understands how valuable switching parties would be and could use the leverage. He could demand movement on issues of personal importance or demand powerful committee assignments.

The biggest advantage to Specter would be to simplify his path to reelection. Staunch conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey has already pledged to launch another primary run against Specter. Toomey almost beat Specter six years ago to win the Republican nomination. As the state as a whole has moved left, what remains of the Republican party has moved right. Thousands of Republicans switched registration to vote in the Democratic presidential primary. It is possible that Toomey could beat Specter in 2010. If Specter loses the primary, he can't run as an independent.

Even if Specter wins the Republican primary he would face a tough general election. The primary fight could be expensive and may force Specter to move to the right. If Specter switches parties, Ed Rendell could clear the Democratic primary for him. As very moderate Democrat he could have an easy time appealing to moderates and independents in the general election.

Talk of Specter switching parties maybe more damaging to Specter than actually switching parties. Specter's greatest danger may be his Republican primary opponent. Toomey is going to try to paint Specter as a RINO (Republican in name only), and the fact that Democrats would welcome him with open arms only amplifies his case. Publicly asking Specter to switch parties is a win-win for Democrats. If he switches parties they gain a senator, and if he doesn't, it weakens his chance of winning his primary. While Toomey could win the Republican primary, he would face long odds in the general election.

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