Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)

That’s right, Democrat of Pennsylvania. According to the NYT Caucus blog, Sen. Specter has announced that he is switching parties. 

In a statement issued about noon as the Capitol was digesting the stunning turn of events, Mr. Specter said he had concluded that his party had moved too far to the right, a fact demonstrated by the migration of 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans to the Democratic Party.

“I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Mr. Specter said, acknowledging that his decision was certain to disappoint colleagues and supporters.

If Al Franken prevails in his ongoing court case in Minnesota and Mr. Specter begins caucusing with Democrats, Democrats would have 60 votes and the ability to deny Republicans the chance to stall legislation. Mr. Specter was one of only three Republicans to support President Obama’s economic recovery legislation.

Over the past few years, Sen. Specter has frequently disagreed with Republican colleagues (but often caucused with them all the same). This move should free him up to support and vote for the his own legislative philosophy without fear of party retribution. 

I wonder if he’s angling for a Supreme Court spot. He would make a good justice, I believe.


Update 11:15 am: 

No, I don’t think he’s going for SCOTUS. He’s had health problems, and this move, as Kos says, is obviously about maintaining electability: he was on track to get killed by the ever-dwindling far-right Republican base in the primary, and now he’s pretty much a shoe-in to be reelected to the Senate in 2010. And although Specter’s switch is a huge blow to the Republicans, it may not actually be that great for the Democrats. Kos:

In some ways, Specter’s switch doesn’t give us anything much. As his statement says, he’s not switching back on EFCA, he won’t be a reliable Democratic vote, and he’ll probably duke it out with Lieberman to be the most obnoxious anti-Democratic voice from within the caucus.

On the other hand, he was going to lose his primary and we’d easily pick up the seat against Toomey, giving us a real Democrat in that seat. Doesn’t seem like a great deal.

I think there’s room for Specter in the Democratic party; he’s a really smart guy with a long history of principled public service. He might be annoying at some times, and a bit of a maverick from the party line, but I’m glad to see Sen. Specter as a Democrat.


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