Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania sits on the Democratic side of the dais during an appropriations hearing in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on the day he announced that he was switching his political party to Democrat on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
Few close observers of politics were caught off guard by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s announcement Tuesday that he is switching party allegiance and will now be known as a Democrat.
Specter, 79, is serving his fifth term in the Senate. The longtime Pennsylvania Republican said the GOP has moved increasingly to the “right” in recent years. That led to more instances where Specter was out of the Republican fold on votes.
“I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Specter said in a statement to The Associated Press.
More likely, Specter found his political fortunes more in line with being labeled a Democrat. During his public statements, Specter noted that 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania switched their party affiliation last year, registering as Democrats.
Specter saw a political sea change in his home state. He also was taking grief from Republicans within the state for voting in support of stimulus fund programs that the GOP had hoped to either trim down or redirect to projects that will create jobs and stimulate the economy.
“I am unwilling to have my 29-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania,” Specter said.
Those last two sentences will be touted by Specter’s new supporters who are either Democrats or independents. But that first sentence about refusing to be judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate is at the root of Specter’s decision.
Specter perceived that he was likely to lose in the GOP primary. He saw that his chances of re-election were better in the Democratic primary.
This wasn’t about party. It is all about Specter’s electability.