Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party on Tuesday, saying he has found himself increasingly "at odds with the Republican philosophy."O'Toole of the Post-Gazette:
"This is a painful decision. I know I'm disappointing many of my colleagues," he said at a news conference announcing the move. "The disappointment runs in both directions.
Sen. Arlen Specter has represented the Republican Party in the Senate longer than any other Pennsylvanian in history. His decision to abandon the GOP, while greeted with a collective "good riddance" by many conservatives, is the latest blow to a party battered by repeated losses in Pennsylvania and across the nation.Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"I don't have to say anything to (my constituents)," said Sen. Arlen Specter in an impromptu Tuesday gathering outside his Capitol Hill office shortly after releasing a statement that he would leave the Republican Party after 43 years, become a Democrat and slink away from a certain and humiliating defeat in next year's GOP primary against Pat Toomey.
"They said it to me," the five-term senator of Philadelphia said.
That's right. Republicans told Arlen Specter to go to hell. And by all accounts, that's where he's going -- to an expected filibuster-proof Senate that, thanks to one of the most unprincipled men ever to serve in that august body, now will have carte blanche to further its dangerously socialist agenda.
Erik Kleefield of Talkingpointsmemo:
Sen. Arlen Specter's announcement yesterday that he will cross the aisle to join the Democrats was the latest expression of independence that has been his hallmark as a legislator.
For the Democratic Party, starting with President Barack Obama, it was a show of confidence on Mr. Specter's part. For the senator, it was his decisive support for the president's economic stimulus package that was probably the watershed. That measure was passed only because Mr. Specter and fellow Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, endured their party's wrath and a threatened loss of GOP campaign funds. Mr. Specter, however, clearly saw the action as necessary if the economy was to get the sharp push it needed toward recovery. It was the right position for the country and definitely right for Pennsylvania.
The Republican response to his vote was probably the other half of the genesis of Mr. Specter's decision to leave. For many in the GOP, not only had Mr. Specter committed a sin, but he also had given them a chance to eliminate him in the 2010 primary. The very party whose latest presidential nominee tried to market himself as a maverick is now at a fork in the road -- does it seek a return to the majority or a bid for ideological purity?
So Specter's problem wasn't that he's not a conservative, but that he's not conservative enough for a shrinking GOP. And if he's not a complete right-winger, his only real choice is to be a Democrat.Dan Balz at the WashingtonPost:
And that's where politics seems to be right now: The right-wing nuts versus everyone else. Specter is on the more conservative end of the "everyone else" category, but being a Democrat now offers him more chance for political success (and sane, rational discourse) than the other option.
How much more can the Republicans take? Demoralized, shrinking and seemingly lacking an agenda beyond the word "no," Republicans today saw their ranks further thinned with the stunning news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter is switching parties and will run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat.Rush Limbaugh:
Specter is worried about his own survival -- and particularly a primary challenge from the right. Many in the GOP might say good riddance. After supporting President Obama's stimulus package, Specter was persona non grata in his own party. So it may be easy for some Republicans to conclude that they are better off without people like Arlen Specter.
But his defection is a reminder that the Republican Party continues to contract, especially outside the South, and that it appears increasingly less welcome to politicians and voters who do not consider themselves solidly conservative. Northeast Republicans have gone from an endangered species to a nearly extinct species. Republicans lost ground in the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest in the last two elections. That's no way to build a national party.
This is all about the fact he faces a strong primary challenge. He wouldn't be changing parties if there were no Pat Toomey out there, if there weren't anybody challenging him on the Republican side. He doesn't want to lose his upcoming election. This does not say anything bad about the Republican Party.Senator Olympia Snowe in the New York Times:
This is good. This is good. Toomey doesn't have to spend a lot of money now on a primary, a bruising primary. Specter -- I mean, there's no guarantee Specter's going to get the Democrat nomination in the primary. He's got to -- he's got to secure that. So it's -- it's -- any time you have, you know, liberals leaving the Republican Party, rather than trying to change the party to become liberal, it's a good thing! I wish more people who are not really Republicans, who claim to be liberal Republicans, do the same thing!
Senator Specter indicated that his decision was based on the political situation in Pennsylvania, where he faced a tough primary battle. In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide.And:
We can’t continue to fold our philosophical tent into an umbrella under which only a select few are worthy to stand. Rather, we should view an expansion of diversity within the party as a triumph that will broaden our appeal. That is the political road map we must follow to victory.However wise those words are, I can't imagine the call to expand the diversity of the GOP coming from a moderate New England republican (and how many of those are left??) will get any traction in the Limbaugh party.