The not-surprising switch of United States Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania from the Republican Party back to the Democratic Party strengthens the GOP Senate caucus by leaving it relatively more conservative. Republican Senators now have more flexibility to stick to their conservative principles without having to be concerned about losing Specter's vote to the Democrats.
Although Arlen Specter occasionally sided with conservatives, he often voted with liberals on key votes, such as taxes, judges and abortion, which gave him a liberal, not a "moderate" voting record -- as liberals and media commentators claim. Many of us Pennsylvania Republican conservatives therefore opposed Specter, whom we nearly defeated for the GOP nomination in 2004. But some Republican conservatives sided with moderates and liberals in backing the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania because of his seniority and ability to direct federal spending to the Keystone State, as well as the perception that he would be electable more easily, which would be critical in keeping the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
President George W. Bush and incumbent Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum backed Specter in 2004 against former U.S. Representative Pat Toomey, but Bush and Santorum were not supporting Specter for renomination in 2010. More importantly, recent political polls indicated a strong lead for Toomey among Pennsylvania Republicans in the rematch for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Apparently, conservative Republicans have finally become fed up with Specter's liberal voting record, especially his recent vote for Barak Obama's $800 billion spending spree that would necessitate higher taxes because of excessive borrowing and also undoes welfare reform. Specter, who usually would tack to the starboard side at election time, tried his familiar strategy when he recently announced his opposition to the union "card check" proposal that would eliminate the secret ballot in union organizing elections, which effectively killed off the proposal for now, as his was the necessary 40th vote to oppose ending the Republican filibuster against the unpopular measure. But the he was disappointed to learn that his vote against his Big Labor supporters had regained him little political support among likely Republican primary voters.
Specter's vote for Obama's so-called stimulus had proved to be a watershed moment among Pennsylvania's conservative Republicans. By failing to oppose excessive spending by the federal government and the concomitant increase in its size, he had cast his vote for higher taxes and less liberty. Specter had failed the minimum standard for being a Republican.
Specter's excuse in switching back to the Democratic Party that the Republican Party had moved far to the right since Ronald Reagan was belied by recent Republican Congressional excessive spending. The Senior Senator from Pennsylvania had freely participated in that spending, culminating in his own vote in favor of Obama's $800 billion plan, in which he joined with only two other liberal Republican Senators to provide the necessary votes to block a GOP filibuster against the plan. Indeed, Specter's vote for Obama's spending spree was possibly his most anti-Reagan Revolution vote in his 28-year Senate career.
Now conservative Republicans can campaign against Specter's vote for Obama's excessive spending, borrowing and taxing, and in favor of fiscal responsibility and liberty. Keystone State conservatives will be energized to support Toomey over Specter in 2010, which will help all conservative Republicans on the ballot in Pennsylvania.
In short, Arlen Specter's vote for Obama's so-called stimulus plan cost him the Republican renomination for U.S. Senate, but his return to the Democratic Party makes it easier for the GOP to return to its Reaganesque conservative principles, which, no matter what the outcome of the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate race, will strengthen the Republican Party and the conservative movement for the next several years.