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April 28th, 2009
01:08 PM ET

Longtime GOP Sen. Arlen Specter becomes Democrat

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Sen. Arlen Specter was expected to face a tough primary challenge in 2010."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.

The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said in a statement posted by his office on

"Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was greeted by a loud, sustained round of applause by dozens of constituents outside his Washington office shortly after the news broke.

"I don't have to say anything to them," a smiling Specter said. "They've said it to me."

Specter was expected to face a very tough primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.

A Quinnipiac University survey of registered Pennsylvania voters released last month showed Specter trailing the more conservative Toomey in a hypothetical primary matchup, 41 to 27 percent.

A separate Franklin & Marshall survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 to 18 percent. Another 42 percent, however, were undecided.

More than half of the Republicans polled in the Franklin & Marshall survey said they would prefer to see someone new in the Senate.

Numerous Republicans are angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.

Specter, one of only three GOP senators to vote for the measure, has been part of a dwindling group of GOP moderates from the northeastern part of the country.

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
“I have known Senator Specter for more than a quarter-century. He has always been a man of honor and integrity, and a fine public servant. Senator Specter and I have had a long dialogue about his place in an evolving Republican Party. We have not always agreed on every issue, but Senator Specter has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner, put people over party, and do what is right for Pennsylvanians and all Americans. I welcome Senator Specter and his moderate voice to our diverse caucus, and to continuing our open and honest debate about the best way to make life better for the American people.”

Statement from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele
“Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not. Let’s be honest-Senator Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record. Republicans look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don’t do it first.”

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Tom K

    What makes Spector think that he is indispensable to the US Senate? Leiberman thoght so too. Only he was a Democrat who didn't become a Republican. Why do these men conceitedly think that they are beyond the rules of the electorate? They either agree with their respective party or they shouldn't have run as GOP or Dem in the first place.

    The constant attention given a senator along with the surrounding of lackies and "yes men" is too much to give up.

    At least in their own minds and in the minds of their toadies they are truly indispensable.

    April 29, 2009 at 9:59 am |
  2. Jesse

    I do say, one more and we have 60 dems in the senate! Does President Obama get extra credit for that?

    April 29, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  3. Ernestine Allen

    I think President Obama is steady and working hard everyday to get every hing done. The press spends too much time trying to find something wrong. They even tried to tell him when to get a dog and what kind. Sence you did not follow George Bush every and tell him what to do, just back off and let him pick his people and keep working for the country.

    I give him an A+

    April 29, 2009 at 7:57 am |
  4. Bob Bechtel

    He could not win because he did not vote the way the people wanted . he voted to save his campain money and his investment protfollio. Spector is why WE THE PEOPLE OF KEYSTONE STATE are pushing to leave the union we are tired tax and spend in DC. and wallstreet greed and our children will have to pay the bill

    April 29, 2009 at 7:33 am |
  5. Purple Spider

    Specter is somewhere else and who cares anyway, whether he is Republican or Democrat. The only reason Democrats care, is because it is another to their side – whoopie!
    It appears that the Republicans are shrinking down in party and it certainly is not Bi-Partisan with no representation.

    April 29, 2009 at 7:28 am |
  6. Jim Quist

    Senator Specter is a very knowledgeable and even-handed representative. I have long respected his ability to cut through the political bologna and present a moderating voice. Let's face it – at one time just about anyone could vote Republican or Democrat depending on the issue at hand. Today the Republican party has lost their focus and as a moderate Democrat I do not find any pleasure in having a lack of balance in our political system. Look at the polls...less than 30% of America identifies themselves as a Republican. Is it time for the Whigs or Bull Moose party to re-emerge?

    April 28, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  7. vera-beth johnson

    Senator Specter and Senator Reid have been in la-la-land for so long that they don't have a clue how hard Americans, who carry the lunch bucket and pays the taxes, have to work just to keep them in their cushy jobs. Some day they will understand this because what goes around comes around. It will be a sorry day for them, but a very happy day for me and the rest of those who WORK FOR A LIVING. Vera

    April 28, 2009 at 2:09 pm |