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Specter Becomes a Democrat

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., announced last Tuesday that he was leaving the Republican Party. In a public statement, Specter explained that he now found his political philosophy more in line with the Democrats and would be running in the Democratic primary for his seat in 2010.

With the loss of the Pennsylvanian, only 40 Republicans remain in the Senate, compared to the 57 Democrats and 2 Independents, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. It is expected that Democrat Al Franken will soon win his legal battles to be seated as the next senator from Minnesota. When that happens the Democratic caucus will nominally have 60 votes, enough to invoke cloture and kill any filibuster.

Always an independent-minded voter, Specter has made clear that he would not be a rubber stamp for all Democratic proposals, citing his continued opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act as an example. It remains to be seen if his switch will have a major impact on many of the issues.

Those pleased by Specter’s decision have argued that it is indicative of a larger electoral realignment and a failure of the GOP to adjust accordingly. They applaud his move as a triumph of conscience in a changing political environment. On the other hand, critics point out that Specter was facing a very tough primary challenge from the right in his 2010 reelection campaign, one that recent polling suggested he was going to lose. Rather than an honest realignment of principles, they see his move as a callous political calculation to ensure his own future as a United States senator.

Direct questions to Jon Bergner.

Posted: Tuesday, May 05, 2009 12:00:00 AM. Modified: Tuesday, May 05, 2009 11:19:04 AM.

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