Specter Coming Round on Employee Free Choice Act?

It's starting to look like newly minted Democratic Senator Arlen Specter is listening to the voices on his left:

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) said today the "prospects are pretty good" for a compromise on legislation making it easier for workers to form unions.

Specter had come out against the card-check bill in March, disappointing labor leaders who had hoped he would be the crucial 60th vote needed to overcome an expected GOP filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act. But Specter has since switched to the Democratic Party, and told the AP today he has been meeting with labor leaders and fellow senators in hopes of coming up with a compromise he could support. Specter would not elaborate on the negotiations, but said he is "hard at work trying to find some way to find an answer."

This news, if it pans out in the form of Specter support for an Employee Free Choice Act acceptable to the labor community, would not necessarily mean that Specter is off the hook with the left. No doubt even with such a move there would remain many progressives skeptical about Specter's intentions, many who would want to see a different Democrat elected in his place (though that Democrat isn't going to be Joe Torsella, who has dropped out of contention for the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania).

That said, this news does suggest that Specter is aware of reality -- that his position as a Republican-turned-Democrat isn't tenable if he acts like a Republican. In other words, the pressure on Specter from progressives appears to be paying dividends.

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NRSC Endorsement "Policy" Shortchanges Conservatives, Minorities

While Arlen Specter was a Republican, NRSC Chair John Cornyn urged Republicans to support the man who was, at the time, the Republican incumbent.  After Arlen Specter left the Republican Party, the PA-GOP was left with former Congressman and former Club for Growth head Pat Toomey as their only major candidate for the seat.  Would Cornyn then shift the NRSC endorsement to the conservative Toomey?  Last week, he declined:

NRSC Chairman John Cornyn of Texas hesitated when given the opportunity to endorse Toomey on Friday.

"I don't think it's wise for me to tell Pennsylvania Republicans who their nominee should be, so I'm not going to do that," said Cornyn.

It seemed plenty wise for Cornyn to tell the PA-GOP who their nominee should be when it was the less conservative Specter.  Maybe Cornyn just didn't want to endorse the more conservative candidate.  Or, perhaps Cornyn simply learned the lesson of the problems in endorsing candidates too soon.

Turns out, Cornyn didn't learn any lesson.

In Florida, Charlie Crist just announced that he would be a candidate for Senate in 2010.  He is the third Republican to enter the primary behind former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (more conservative than Crist and Hispanic) and former Chief Medical Officer of Florida Marion Thorpe, Jr. (an African-American).  With a diversity of candidates and degrees of conservatism, would the NRSC and John Cornyn let Florida Republicans decide for themselves who to nominate?

Nope:

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), issued the following statement today regarding Florida Governor Charlie Crist's announcement that he will run for the United States Senate in 2010:

"I am pleased today to endorse Governor Charlie Crist for the United States Senate. With his record of reform in Florida, I know that Governor Crist will bring a fresh perspective to Washington in our efforts to fight for lower taxes, less government, and new job creation for all Americans. Charlie Crist is a tireless advocate on behalf of all Floridians and one of only three Governors who earned an `A' from the CATO Institute for his efforts to restrain spending and cut taxes last year.

"While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate. Governor Crist is a dedicated public servant and a dynamic leader, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."

And national conservatives, like those at the National Review, are very displeased:

By endorsing Charlie Crist for the Senate, the NRSC is getting involved in Florida's GOP primary more than 15 months before it will actually take place (August 24, 2010). It's also selecting a very liberal Republican (Crist supported the Obama "stimulus") against Marco Rubio, a considerably more conservative choice who is also a credible statewide candidate. Is Crist more electable than Rubio? Arguably. Is Rubio nevertheless capable of winning a general election next year? Certainly. This is a contest that the NRSC should sit out, as Florida Republicans decide for themselves what to do. Instead of trying to beat conservatives, the NRSC should save its resources for defeating Democrats.

In Pennsylvania, the NRSC was willing to endorse the less conservative Arlen Specter, but then balked at endorsing the more conservative Pat Toomey.  In Florida, the NRSC chose to endorse the less conservative Charlie Crist over the more conservative Marco Rubio (or over staying out of the endorsement game altogether) - and, at the same time, snubbed the Hispanic Republican and the African-American Republican.  The NRSC has found a way to piss off its base while also curtailing outreach to minority communities.  Impressive job, John Cornyn.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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PA-Sen: Netroots Overwhelmingly Support a Draft Sestak Effort

As many of you know, over the last five days, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in partnership with a number of progressive organizations and blogs including Senate Guru, asked those in the netroots, "Should a Draft Sestak movement be created to take on Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary?"

Netroots for SestakThe results are in and they are overwhelming.  85% of Pennsylvanian respondents and 86% of respondents nationally want Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary.  The poll has even gotten the attention of Congressman Sestak, as the PCCC points out:

"I am honored that so many of you took the time to vote in the recent grassroots Straw Poll. Let me tell you, I and many others were paying attention. If I decide to run it will be in large measure because of the grassroots energy of so many people like you. Until I and my family make that decision, please accept my thanks and my best wishes as you continue be active participants in our people-powered democracy. Thank you so very much!"

Due to such an overwhelming response, a Draft Sestak Fund has been created on ActBlue.  To contribute and further encourage Congressman Sestak to enter the race, click on the image below:

Draft Sestak Fund


If you need any additional motivation to contribute to this effort to draft a real Democrat to oppose Specter in the primary, consider Specter's actions since announcing his Party switch:

1. Specter opposed the Obama budget.
2. Specter opposed the "cramdown" mortgage/bankruptcy reform, siding with banks over families.
3. Specter reiterated his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.
4. Specter reiterated his opposition to President Obama's nomination of Dawn Johnsen to the Office of Legal Counsel.
5. Specter announced his support for Republican Norm Coleman over Democratic Senator-elect Al Franken in Minnesota's Senate race.
6. Specter promoted a website that appeared to raise money for cancer research but, in actuality, simply raised money for his campaign.
7. Specter denied reports that he told President Obama that he would be a "loyal Democrat" despite multiple reporters sticking to their story.

The netroots have displayed overwhelming support for Congressman Sestak to take on recently-Republican Arlen Specter.  Help the effort by contributing to the Draft Sestak Fund.

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Ridge Won't Commit to Back Toomey

It's bad enough for Senate Republicans that they couldn't cajole former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to challenge Arlen Specter next year. Now they can't even get Ridge to commit to backing the likely GOP nominee, the ultra conservative Pat Toomey.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge declined to say whether he would vote for Republican Pat Toomey over Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) if the two candidates were pitted against each other in a general election.

"It's called secret ballot," Ridge said on MSNBC's "Hardball," hours after he announced that he would not be running for the Senate himself.

Ridge's unwillingness to say that he would support a Republican nominee against a Democrat underscores the difficulty that Toomey would face in winning over moderate Republicans in a general election.

Here's the video:

The latest polling from Research 2000 finds Toomey trailing all comers on the Democratic side, including the very unknown Joe Torsella, as well as the not well known Congressman Joe Sestak and the obviously better known Arlen Specter. And with the leading moderate Republican in Pennsylvania lukewarm in his support for Toomey, to say the least, this could be a rough battle for the GOP no matter who the Democrats eventually put up.

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GOP Recruitment Fail: Ridge Says No to Senate Bid

For a brief moment in time, it appeared as though the Republicans might be able to escape the 2010 cycle holding the Pennsylvania Senate seat by the skin of their teeth by recruiting former Governor and Bush cabinet secretary Tom Ridge to run for the seat and somehow shepherding him through a GOP primary against the more conservative Pat Toomey. But that no longer appears to be a possibility:

Tom Ridge will not be challenging Pat Toomey for the Republican Senate nomination in Pennsylvania in 2010. In a statement released today, the former governor and Homeland Security chief said, "[a]fter careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate."

I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues. The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach. However, this process also impressed upon me how fortunate I am to have so many friends who volunteered to support my journey if I chose to take it and continue to offer their support after I conveyed to them this morning how I believe I can best serve my commonwealth, my party and my country.

Without Ridge in the race, it's difficult to see how the Republicans can win the Pennsylvania Senate in 2010, particularly with Toomey as their candidate. Tough break for the GOP, tough break.

Update [2009-5-7 13:50:50 by Jonathan Singer]: Just to add a little bit more, it's not difficult to understand why Ridge wouldn't want to run. There is a not at all improbable possibility that there will be fewer than 40 GOP Senators in the 112th Congress, meaning that Republicans in the chamber will have even less power or sway than the already limited amount they currently hold. It's nearly unimaginable that the party's membership in the Senate could even rise above the low 40s in 2010. Republicans might be able to retake the Senate some day, but that day doesn't appear to be soon.

This reasoning goes for any number of other potential Republicans recruits for the Senate -- and even more so for House recruits. Why would someone want to invest the time and money requisite to run a credible campaign for the House or Senate knowing full well that their party is a drag on their chances and, even if they win, they would be relegated to a small, relatively powerless minority for years to come?

Unfortunately for the GOP, this reasoning is self-reinforcing. That is to say, the more times people like Ridge say no, the more it convinces other potential candidates to say no as well. How the Republicans change this cycle is unclear to me -- but it's something they are going to have to change if they want any hope of increasing their membership in Congress next year.

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