PA-Sen: The Democrat Who's Already Running

The Democratic power structure has apparently promised their full-throated support for Arlen Specter in next year's Democratic Senate primary -- "in money and in message" -- and no doubt intends to do everything it can to clear the field for our Johnny come lately. Ed Rendell made that perfectly clear in an interview last month.

Via Greg Sargent:

Asked if Specter could win a Dem primary, Rendell said: "He'd be unopposed. The Democrats in the Senate would welcome him. We in Pennsylvania would welcome him. He'd be basically unopposed for the Democratic nomination."

God forbid actual Democrats get to choose for themselves who will be their nominee. What's that called again? Oh yeah, democracy. Specter said he switched parties because he saw he had no chance of winning a Republican primary. Clearly, he has no intention of having to compete in a Democratic one either. How convenient.

So now we get to watch the depressing spectacle of the big guns trying to push Joe Sestak and Allyson Schwartz away from a run against Specter. Will they be successful? Who knows, but it doesn't really matter. Either way, Specter will not have the field to himself.

Per Bowers:

It turns out that Arlen Specter already has a serious primary challenger: Joe Torsella (I can't seem to find a campaign website.) Torsella is CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, head of the Pennsylvania Education Board, and was also a Rhodes Scholar. He held a variety of civic and political positions in Philadelphia during the 1990's, and narrowly lost a 2004 primary for the U.S. House to Allyson Schwartz. [...]

This is a serious campaign. Torsella raised $596,513 during the first 51 days of his campaign, and has $586,798 on hand. While that is still a long way from the $6,735,915 that Specter has on hand, it is not to be taken lightly. Torsella has also hired a high-profile, experienced set of staff and consultants...

Today, Torsella reiterated his intention to run for the Democratic primary. I'll be interested to hear more about Torsella's views but no doubt if he remains the only Democrat to challenge Specter, he is going to find a lot of support online and on the ground in Pennsylvania. His life sure just got a whole lot more interesting.

Update [2009-4-28 17:20:34 by Todd Beeton]:From Ben Smith, until today Torsella was "Rendell's favored candidate."

One man in an interesting spot today is Neil Oxman, Ed Rendell's political advisor and media consultant who is working for the man who was, until today, Rendell's favored candidate for Senate, Joe Torsella.

Torsella, now, is defying his old boss and staying in, and Oxman said in a brief interview that he thinks his client can beat Specter in the Democratic primary, if he decides to stay in the race, despite the power governor's decision to back Specter.

"Ed Rendell will be for Specter and will be at the press conference with the president tomorrow, but I don't think it's relevant," Oxman said. "In these kinds of races poeple make up their minds not because some government leader tells them to."

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Specter Press Conference Thread

Consider this a thread on Arlen Specter's press conference on his decision to switch to the Democratic Party.

Update [2009-4-28 14:32:44 by Jonathan Singer]: Specter says that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have agreed to respect his seniority as if he had been elected as a Democrat in 1980.

Update [2009-4-28 14:37:18 by Jonathan Singer]: On follow up, Specter indicates how this seniority issue plays out, specifically in terms of subcommittee chairmanships -- though from the grin on his face you have to get the sense that he is not coming to the Democratic caucus without the possibility of retaining some power.

Update [2009-4-28 14:43:50 by Todd Beeton]:Specter: "I'd be ahead of Senator Harkin." Implying that he would take over the chairmanship of the Health Sub-committee of Appropriations. Bullshit.

Update [2009-4-28 14:37:18 by Jonathan Singer]: Specter indicates that he remains opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act, which he calls a bad bill, as well as the nomination of Dawn Johnsen. Interesting...

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PA-Sen: Arlen Specter to Become a Democrat?

(Proudly cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

I guess so.


Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota. (Former senator Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. 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."

Overall, I'm happy. I mean, why shouldn't I be when we will be assured of 60 Senate votes once Al Franken is seated in Minnesota? Still, I have a few reservations.

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Cillizza: Arlen Specter to Switch Parties

Chris Cillizza has the huge scoop:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, according to sources informed on the decision.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

Specter as a Democrat would also fundamentally alter the 2010 calculus in Pennsylvania as he was expected to face a difficult primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey. The only announced Democrat in the race is former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella although several other candidates are looking at the race.

More as we have it...

Update [2009-4-28 12:14:53 by Jonathan Singer]: I've said before that Arlen Specter does not win reelection as a Republican, and that his only path to a sixth term would be to switch his affiliation in the Senate from the Republican caucus to the Democratic caucus. It remains to be seen exactly how this plays out -- if the state Democratic Party coalesces around his nomination (and you would think it would given the close relationship Specter has with Democratic Governor Ed Rendell), and what, if any, seniority Specter is given by Senate Democrats (will he get a chairmanship of a full committee, a subcommittee, ...?). What is clear from Specter's statement, reprinted in full below the fold, is that this move won't change his position on all issues, including (and particularly) card check. But still more as we hear it

Update [2009-4-28 12:16:59 by Todd Beeton]:Per CNN, President Obama just heard about this switch this morning and called Specter and told him: "You have my full support and we're thrilled to have you."

Update [2009-4-28 12:27:36 by Todd Beeton]:Bill Schneider on CNN: "This is a sign that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it is making itself uncompetitive in significant parts of the country like the Northeast."

CNN just showed footage of Sen. Specter being applauded by constituents outside his office. When asked "what do you have to say to your constituents?" he replied "I don't have to say anything to them, they've just said it to me." Specter will be holding a press conference shortly.

Update [2009-4-28 12:39:29 by Jonathan Singer]: Watching the dourness on Fox News right now is great, the extent to which they are trying to downplay this news. To take one example, Brett Baier just said "Republicans never really felt Specter was on their side." Fine. But he was. He was a Republican who was elected on Ronald Reagan's wings in 1980 and has been a member of the GOP in good standing ever since. Republicans, and their allies in the conservative media, may want us to think this isn't a big deal, but it is.

Update [2009-4-28 12:43:8 by Todd Beeton]:I'm curious when Specter intends to make this switch official. Apparently MSNBC is reporting that Specter will now caucus with the Dems. For me, I greet this news with mixed emotions. From a strict numbers perspective, more Ds is a good thing. But let's face reality: Specter has a lot to prove and a lot to repent for and he'd be the worst of the Democrats on that primary ballot.

My concern now is that Democrats will be reluctant to challenge him in the Democratic primary or will be pushed out. That is the worst thing that can happen. We need a strong Pennsylvania Democrat to challenge Specter in the primary so he is motivated to be halfway decent as a sitting Senator in the meantime. And I need someone to give my money to because Specter won't be getting any.

Update [2009-4-28 12:49:41 by Josh Orton]: MSNBC is reporting that the Senate Dem caucus will back Specter in the primary. Between their support and Rendell's, I don't see a competitive primary happening.

Update [2009-4-28 13:0:45 by Todd Beeton]:Andrea Mitchell: "Arlen Specter is now officially a Democrat."

There's more...

PA-Sen: Specter Trails, and Badly, Against Toomey

This week Rasmussen Reports polled 490 likely Republican primary voters, and the numbers (which have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points) look decidedly bad for incumbent Senator Arlen Specter.

Arlen Specter: 30 percent
Pat Toomey: 51 percent

Specter's troubles don't stop with the topline numbers pitting him against conservative challenger Pat Toomey. Just 42 percent of likely GOP primary voters view Specter favorably, while 55 percent view him unfavorably. These numbers look even worse in comparison to those of Toomey, who earns a 66 percent positive rating and a 19 percent negative rating from the Republican base.

Taken as a whole, this survey does little to dispel my initial take that Specter will not earn a sixth term.

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