Most Dems are fairly excited for this news, since all they see is the giant red 60-seat filibuster proof majority (if and when Minnesota seats Al Franken). But the entire thing reeks of Pennsylvania’s senior senator reading the tarrot cards of no longer being a Senator.
This is more of a Joe Liebermann move than it is a James Jeffords (VT-I) move.
“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right,” Specter said in a statement released this morning. “Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”
Read between the lines. Even if he comes out of the Republican primary in 2010 (no guarantee mind you), the shifting demographics make it difficult for him to be re-elected. But, if he makes it out of the Democractic Primary (and what Dem without name recognition would challenge him) then he’ll have the votes of both the Dems and Repubs and coast to reelection.
It’s a shrewd move, more for reelection than for any changing political/philosophical views. The GOP has shifted to a place where it’s politics are no longer hospitable for a center-right candidate.
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. There’s a reason that 200,000 moderate Republicans in Pennsylvania switched to the Democratic Party last year. Arlen has been left chasing those 200,000 voters, which are essentially his base.