Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's announcement today that he will run for reelection as a Democrat startled many people and captured part of a news cycle. Specter's press conference, just aired on cable, contains food for second thought. Actually, this started back in 2006, when significant figures in the GOP adopted a new gambit: Tired of losing as Republicans, more of them began running as Democrats. Missouri and Kansas are and were prime examples, though Maryland among other states also had some newly reinvented contenders.
Now Pennsylvania has joined the Louisiana Purchase club of new old guard.
Most of this sounds ominous.
Predictions are futile, but a few questions at the very least are necessary:
- How will Specter's party switch affect the litigation over the senate seat in Minnesota? In spite of all his own caveats-above--Specter's switch was instantly loudly ballyhooed on the airwaves as giving Obama that magic 60-vote 'filibuster-proof majority.' A few days ago, some senior Republicans were calling on Norm Coleman to show a little dignity and cease his court efforts against Al Franken. If Republicans continue to call for Coleman to bow out, it can safely be inferred that they do not fear the kind of 60-vote majority created by Specter. If-on the other hand-they do actually see something to fear from Specter, the Coleman-Franken litigation should be protracted to the maximum extent.
- Can Specter win a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania? Presumably he will benefit from having more than one primary opponent. His opponents will inevitably split what you might call the anti-Clarence Thomas vote, or the pro-union vote, among others.
- If Specter fails to win the Democratic primary, will he then pull a Lieberman and run as an 'Independent'? We're seeing a lot of newly coined 'political independents' around the country lately, too. And if he does so, can he pull off Lieberman's kind of success?
It looks only too likely that Specter will have Lieberman's support, whatever he does. The Dems' main challenge-and this really should have been clear since November 2008-is interior.