Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Specter Goes Down!

Every Pennsylvanian's favorite RINO-turned-DINO has lost the Democratic primary to U.S. representative Joe Sestak. This isn't a surprise to anyone who'd been paying attention, and was pretty much an inevitability, if not now then in November. After his after his near death experience in the 2004 Republican primary, in which he narrowly defeated Pat Toomey, Specter saw the writing on the wall and realized that a squishy Rockefeller Republican like him wasn't likely to survive long in the furnace of right-wing activism that has become the Republican primary process, and duly switched his affiliation to Democrat, but his late career defection transparently smacked of opportunism and desperation and won him little-to-no trust or goodwill in his new party while alienating whatever support he might have had left among similarly centrist members of his old one. His critical votes in favor of the polarizing stimulus and the health care reform bills weren't enough to save him when the state's Democrats thought they had a chance to elect a more reliable liberal like Sestak to his position.

Unfortunately for them (but happily for me, desperate as I am to see divided government at least put some kind of a check on Obama's spendthrift ways), I think there's a pretty good chance that Toomey, who's back at a more opportune time, is going to defeat Sestak just as he likely would have beaten Specter. An arch fiscal conservative who's a ferocious deficit hawk has the right message at a time when voters are extremely put off by how much money the Federal government is spending. And while Sestak made hay in the Democratic primary by tying Specter to George W. Bush, that kind of tactic will be less successful this year, not only because Bush is gone and the marginally popular President now in the White House is of his own party (as is the extremely unpopular Speaker of the House in the Speaker's chair), but because Toomey has been out of office for five years and is clearly the candidate best positioned to brand himself as an "outsider" in this election, contra Sestak whose fingerprints are all over the Obama agenda, including the most unpopular parts of it.

Every political career comes to an end sooner or later, even one as long and tenacious as Specter's. It's hard to believe the arc of the guy's career - from principle architect of the magic bullet theory during the Warren Commission hearings in the 1960s, to failed mayoral and gubernatorial candidate in the 1970s, to a five-term Senate stint culminating in a role as chairman of the judiciary committee during Bush's second term - and I don't know that we'll see many of its like happen again in today's political environment. Whatever you thought of Specter (I voted for him in 2004 but certainly had my disagreements with him), there's no denying that he was a smart, tough, and hard-working politician, if not the most principled one. Here's hoping Pennsylvania's next Senator can equal him in the former qualities, if not the latter one.

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