Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter landed a big left hook on the GOP yesterday. Faced with a primary challenge from ultra-right-wing Republican Representative Pat Toomey, Arlen pulled a fast one and switched over to the Democrats.
The Democratic caucus (including two independents) in the Senate now stands at 59 members with another likely seat pending. That would be the all-but-resolved Senate seat from Minnesota that was formerly held by Norm Coleman, but which now appears to be going to Al Franken.
59 + 1 = 60
That, my friends, is a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell never looked so much like a three-day corpse fished out of the river as he did yesterday, stammering that Specter's switch is a "threat to the country."
The Republicans can whine and snivel all they want, but the fact of the matter is that they've done this to themselves. Specter didn’t “hold the line” and adhere to each and every litmus test the Republicans set. In particular, many Republicans resented Specter's vote in favor of President Obama's stimulus package. Therefore, as a form of punishment, the more rabid elements of the GOP decided to challenge him in the primary. The challenger, Pat Toomey, had run against Specter in the Republican primary in 2004 and came within a single percentage point of beating him. The Pennsylvania GOP has, since that time, become even more conservative and strident, and polls showed Toomey with a 20-point lead amongst primary voters.
Looks like it backfired.
Toomey can win the GOP primary now, but it won't do him a damn bit of good in the general election, when Specter can draw on Democrats, which have a registration advantage of 1.2 million in Pennsylvania.
The entire Republican northeastern representation in both houses of Congress now stands at a grand total of three. Some 200,000 voters in Pennsylvania have switched from Republican to Democrat since 2004. A recent poll from the Washington Post showed that a mere 21% of voters nationwide identified themselves as Republicans. The only region where the GOP continues to show strength is the former Confederacy. It is becoming a rump, regional party of the Deep South.
So, I've got a question for those Republicans who insist that the reason they lost the last two elections is because they weren't conservative enough: You want more people to leave?