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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Metamorphosis of Arlen Specter

Nate Silver writes:

Specter's overall party loyalty score since becoming a Democrat -- counting votes both before and after the primary challenge -- is 87 percent. This contrasts with the 44 percent of the time that he broke ranks to side with the Democratic on Contentious Votes while still a member of the Republican Party. He's basically been behaving like a mainline, liberal Democrat.

Notice, however, that I did not say Specter has become a mainline, liberal Democrat. On the one hand, it makes sense that Specter might have been hedging his bets early on after becoming a Democrat, siding with the Republican on a few issues to avoid looking like too much of a craven flip-flopper. He wasn't going to come out with guns blazing the next day with bills to enact single-payer health care and to prosecute George W. Bush for war crimes. He was going to wait until the spotlight was shining a little less brightly, and then begin to vote somewhat routinely with his new party.

On the other hand, it's hard not to imagine that this process has been strengthened, accentuated, catalyzed, by Joe Sestak's primary challenge. You can draw a pretty clear line in the sand from when Specter went from sorta, kinda Democrat to OMG totally! Democrat, and it coincides with the date that Sestak announced his challenge.

The real question is how Specter will behave if and when he wins the primary challenge, and the pressure from the left is off. This is especially so now that some polling shows Republican Pat Toomey, who forced Specter from the GOP in the first place, competitive against him in the general election.

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David Diano said...

Nate does a great job analyzing Specter, but he leaves out Sestak's drifts.
Sestak ran as a liberal progressive, but has been anything but. More Blue-Dog than true-blue.

Sestak's been steering to the Right to appeal to the rest of the state, in anticipation of a Senate run for a long time.

Sestak himself has recently made some more liberal votes in an attempt to outflank Specter on the Left for the Primary.

True progressives in Sestak's district aren't fooled.

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