Thursday, March 12, 2009

Toomey May Take Specter Out Of Republican's Misery

According to DeRoy Murdock over at Scripp News Pat Toomey, a former Pennsylvania Congressman who stuck to his word on term limits, is pounding on Arlen Specter's electoral door over the next round of balloting for his seat.

Senator Arlen Specter's support for the 1,071-page Obama-Pelosi-Reid "stimulus" package will cost taxpayers $787 billion. That vote may cost the Pennsylvania Republican his job.

"I am very likely to make a run for the Senate," says Pat Toomey, a former Keystone State congressman and free-market stalwart. "Specter's vote was a profound betrayal of the Republican Party and conservative principles. It's a big factor (behind Toomey's potential challenge to Specter in 2010's Republican Senate primary).''

This rematch would pit Toomey, 47, against Specter, 79, seeking his sixth consecutive Senate term. Buoyed by conservative irritation with Specter's barely Republican, big-government record, Toomey came within two percentage points of retiring Specter in 2004. But Specter prevailed, thanks to the support of GOP establishmentarians and the incumbent loving, Republican-lite Bush political team.

For Specter, loyalty flows uphill. While top Republicans back him in tight races, he typically joins Democrats when the GOP desperately needs him. Exhibit A: Specter's February 13 "stimulus" vote, which will cost more than $1 trillion after interest payments are slathered atop its $787 billion budget.

"This stimulus bill is such a really outrageous lurch to the Left by the federal government," Toomey said. "It's not just a trillion dollars in spending. It is a huge expansion of government, undermining welfare reform, and staggering amounts of money to be borrowed. All of this could have been blocked. When the House Republicans voted this down, they empowered the Senate Republicans to demand real pro-growth tax cuts, less spending, and less of this terrible, liberal policy. President Obama would have had to agree, because he would have had no bill in the face of united Republican opposition. Instead, these three -- Specter plus Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine -- capitulated."

For many Republicans, Specter's vote for this pork-encrusted, incentive-challenged boondoggle was the final insult. "In a two-person race, Specter is toast," James Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His late-February survey of 700 registered Pennsylvania voters found that 53 percent want a "new person" as senator. So do 66 percent of Republicans. (Error margin: 5.9 percent.)

The artillery is already lining up with promises of oodles of cash for Specter. This story was highlighted over at Big Union Vows To Back Arlen Specter In 2010 If He Supports Employee Free Choice

This is big: Senior officials with the powerful AFL-CIO have privately assured GOP Senator Arlen Specter that they’ll throw their full support behind him in the 2010 Senate race if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act, a senior labor strategist working closely with the AFL on the issue tells me.

This is significant, because it represents a big incentive for Specter to switch parties — and to support Employee Free Choice. Specter may be facing a serious GOP primary challenge from Club for Growth head Pat Toomey. If he loses that — or pulls out of the GOP first and becomes an Indy or a Dem — supporting Employee Free Choice could give him the organizational muscle from labor and Democratic support he needs to prevail in a general election and hold his seat.

The labor strategist tells me that top AFL-CIO officials have told Specter they’ll back him to the hilt if he supports their top priority.

“If Senator Specter supports working people — particularly voting with us on Employee Free Choice — the AFL-CIO will support him 100 percent of the way, whether in a primary or a general election,” the strategist says.

AFL-CIO spokesperson Eddie Vale declined comment.

Interestingly, because labor support would actually hurt him in a GOP primary, AFL-CIO’s promise also is an incentive to switch parties earlier, rather than later. Some analysts think his only hope of holding on to his seat is to switch parties and prevail in a general election, something which labor backing would make easier.

To be sure, there’s no telling what Specter will do, and another wild card is whether Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell would back a Specter switch.

Markos Moulitsas, who first heard these conversations, has an interesting rundown gaming out all the possibilities for Specter. This is getting mighty interesting.

Update: The AFL-CIO goes on the record about supporting Specter.

Update II: The story is sparking controversy among EFCA’s opponents. Associated Builders and Contractors national chair Jerry Gorski issued a statement blasting the AFL-CIO as “union bosses in Washington” who are trying to “buy a vote in support of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act” and “shove this legislation onto the American public.”

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