For a lot of Democrats, it doesn’t matter whether Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter became a Democrat for ideological or selfish reasons. Chances are… it was both anyway.
The long serving Republican maverick has been alienated from his party for quite some time now. The deal breaker was his decision to support President Barack Obama on the stimulus bill. That prompted RNC boss Michael Steele to wonder aloud if such treachery should be followed by a stiff, well funded primary challenge when Specter runs for re-election next year.
No such worries now. Specter has already received assurances from Democratic bigwigs that the party will back him to the hilt next year. President Obama has pledged to campaign for him. And of course, Specter’s switch, the 21st among senators since 1890, now allows him to paint the likely Republican senate nominee, former Rep. Pat Toomey, as too conservative for Pennsylvania voters.
If you do the math, Democrats are now one final court case away from holding a veto proof majority in the Upper House. If, as expected, Al Franken is finally seated as Minnesota’s junior senator, there will be that magic 60 the Obama Administration has doubtless prayed for. There will still be work to be done to get major legislation passed, no doubt. Still, this makes the prospects easier.
It also has daunting implications for the GOP. It removes one of their major talking points, the possibility of using reconciliation to move past possible Republican filibusters. Yet there’s a deeper meaning here. It makes the GOP’s alleged “big tent” look small. It further marginalizes a party that’s already out of power.
There could well be increased calls for Michael Steele’s head, calls that glib, pseudo-hip sound bites won’t quiet. And it all could have been avoided if conservative blowhards in both Congress and the media hadn’t acted as if Specter’s vote on the stimulus bill amounted to some sort of high treason.
So let’s see now. We’re in midweek, and already a powerful Republican senator has jumped ship, and the Senate paid no attention to Sarah Palin fans who vowed to derail Kathleen Sebelius‘ nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary.
In baseball parlance, that’s oh for two. The GOP echo chamber will doubtless use today’s first 100 days hoopla to pound on Obama and all things Democrat. The real question is, will anyone be paying attention?
Somehow those tea parties seem like a long time ago.
You tell me. Post your comment …here: How important is Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democrats?