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March 29th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Party-switching could cost Specter re-election

(CNN) – Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter made huge headlines when he switched parties for the second time last spring. The former Republican-turned-Democrat is campaigning for re-election this fall, but he's facing fierce competition from both sides.

Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak is trying to beat Specter in a May Democratic Party primary. The latest poll from Franklin and Marshall College shows his Republican challenger, Pat Toomey, out in front by four points with a huge number of voters still undecided. Our Jessica Yellin got a chance to talk with the five-term senator and his two competitors.

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Gary

    He is an incumbant, therefore I am voting against him. This is regardless of him switching parties.


    March 31, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  2. greg

    voters need to vote for third party candidates even if that means (in their view) the worst of the 2 major party candidates loses. it will take that kind of threat, that kind of loss of power, before either side begins to the short run, that may mean democrats elected to republican districts and vice-versa.

    and we need a consitutional amendment to take redistricting away from state-party control. Let computers do it based on general criteria such as giving precedence to keeping neighborhoods together, compactness. As long as most of them are in safe districts, why should they listen? Most people don't think beyond the labels...there are many people unhappy with the current process....from the entire range of political thought. It would be a slice of utopia if we would together on a reform like this.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  3. DennisH

    Spector is all about Spector and his political survival. Why else would he switch parties. What constituency elected him in the first place. I simply have a real problem with any elected official lawfully being able to switch parties once elected by the people. That is just wrong.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  4. drs

    Specter will defeat Sestak in the primary. He has the origanization behind him, and that is important.

    He will also defeat Toomey in the general election.

    The reason is simple: Rendell. His political coalition of SE PA notably, progressives) and a smattering of counties elsewhere will be the difference. There is simply no way that suburban Philadelphia progressive women will vote for Toomey. Specter, Anaita Hill notwithstanding, has been a fairly effective advocate for issues of import to such a voter demographic (health funding, notably).

    You can make a case that his vote for the health care bill is a betrayal of Pennsylvania, given the state's strong interests in the traditional federal student loan program, since the state guaranty agency has been a big player therein and Sallie Mae has a large operation in northeastern Pennsylvania. And it would be interesting to see how he handles that. But beyond that, he is more in step with the typical moderate/center-right Pennsylvania than certainly Toomey is, and that will be the difference. Once the general election dynamic sees this (and expands beyond the true believer vote more characteristic of primary voters), Specter will prevail.

    A lot of this and similar stories is simply to drum up interest. One has to look inside this to see the underlying dynamics, which favour Specter considerably.

    Now I might have preferred that he run as an independent (I am an independent and a fmr resident of PA). But Pennsylvania election law did not favour him in that respect.

    It also might have helped had Bobby Casey run for governor. The pretenders on the Democratic side this year would all have fallen away if that had been the case. One wonders why this did not happen, despite the historic PA trends to flip parties to elect a governor from the other side every eight years. Remember that Casey creamed Santorum for the Senate seat, and Toomey is basically Santorum repackaged.

    So before you bash on the Senator, consider the underlying political dynamics to get a true picture of what will impact the election.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Jason | Odenton, MD

    well "proud PA Resident", You can Have him (SPECTER) right back in PA...thats where he needs to be. He is confused, doesn't know if he is a Democrat or Republican...he only knows based on what the poll numbers tell him... Hurry grab him, "INDEPENDENTS" don't need his kind in Washington destroying what little society we have left under him, Pelosi, Reid, The Democratic Leaders as well as the Republican Leaders are to be ashamed of themselves...NO solutions from EITHER side...TERM LIMITS and VOTE them ALL OUT NOVEMBER 2012!

    March 31, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  6. jim in lehighton pa

    Specter is a flip flopper , he's only interested in protecting his own tail. He's not sure who he is or what he stands for..I guess if he doesn't know what he is or wants he'll never know what his constituents wants and needs are.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  7. Tammy

    We need to vote these flip floppers OUT! That includes both Rino's and Dino's. We need to know where you stand and that you will not sell out. Is Ron Paul the only real politician left who doesn't sell out?

    March 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  8. Pete Sanchez

    All over our country elected officials are going to be held accountable , not only for their voting records, but above all ,for the stance they have taken to represent all the citizens in their districts & states, all the people not just the people that voted for them!
    Be firm and have the guts to stand for what you believe.
    Many spoke of changes in the past few months, just wait and see what is coming our way, many wealthy will become poor and lots middle class will become miserable, Welcome to America......

    March 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  9. dumb

    arlen specter, benedict arnold. same thing

    March 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  10. dumb

    this guy alone is responsible for everyone's taxes going up PERMANENTLY years from now once obamacare fully comes into effect.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  11. colby (a PA democrat who votes)

    The senator is going to find out how many democrats are still sore at him about the Anita Hill business. My very non-political wife hates the guy still for his hatchet job. She doesn't care what party he is in, and I am certain that in PA she is not alone. It would be some sort of miracle if he wins the primary–Obama and Big Ed coveted Arlen's vote, but the guy who invented the one bullet theory during his time at the Warren Commission is going to run out of luck.

    March 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  12. Bar

    When the voters asked Specter for change he threw em' a dime, cuz he knows how to turn on one!

    I am working day and night to help Joe Sestak win! He really is the future of Pa. He is good on all my issues, and has more integrity in his little toe – tan Specter has in his whole body!

    The voters in Pa are smarter than falling for Specters policy built on polling! And Toomey is going to scare the voters to the ballot box in the fall!

    March 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  13. Colorado Citizen

    Spector is the poster child for what is wrong with our politicians in DC. He is arrogant (I've seen clips of his town hall meetings held last summer/fall), and unwilling to stay the course with the party that elected him top office. Instead he switches to the majority party so that he can hang with the bid dogs. That paints a picture of a man whose ethical and moral fiber has begun to shred. He simply needs to go.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  14. R Wright

    tired american wrote
    "they'll be too busy paying for BS Health Care"

    It just amazes me how all of these people that think caring for the citizens of this country is BS. They constantly whine about the 'cost' of the health care bill.

    Yet when it comes to spending almost a TRILLION dollars to invade two other countries and kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, they remain silent.

    It's apparently ok to pick up an assult rifle and blow people away in a sovereign country that we have no right to invade or be in.

    But to want to make the people of this country's lives a bit better that can't get health insurance because they have heartburn or some other minor preexisting condition that the ins companies deny, these holier than thou people stand on the roofs and shout how it's going to 'destroy the lives of their children!'.

    I suggest that maybe you switch your anger to WHY health care costs so much in this country in the first place, when the same exact services in the other western civilized countries costs only a fraction!
    It's called GREED and it starts with the buying of the polticians in Washington by PACs that represent the major pharma's and ins companies.

    I don't know if you've noticed, but freaking 50% of all tv commercials now are pharma ads in which we have to sit through and listen to the disgusting side effects of the drug they're pushing. It shows that this whole American medical industry is nothing but a huge 'for profit' mess.

    When a senator can leave office after pushing through huge pro insurance or pharma legislation only to immediately be placed on the board of that corporation, that's where the problem starts.

    Just think of what could have been accomplish if all of the sheeple that we have seen over the last few weeks on TV in all the protests were to protest the greed and corruption in Washington instead. We may just have gotten some where.

    March 30, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  15. Concerned Citizen

    Proud Pa. resident .............. if you support Him you are also part of the problem!

    March 30, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  16. Proud PA Resident

    The republican party left the middle ground a long time ago and Specter is a causalty of this. I supported Specter when he was a republican and will continue to support him as a democrat.

    We need moderates in Congress and not just wingnuts like Toomey.

    March 30, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  17. Concerned Citizen

    He is, without a doubt, the overwhelming problem in the Senate (and
    House) which is life-long politicians!!!! Win at all cost, constant campaigning, watch your own back, vote yourself raises, secure your own retirement benefits, choose the very best healtcare for yourself, take care of your friends, accept kickbacks, do whatever it takes to keep your plushy way of life............ who cares what the majority of the people want!!
    TERM LIMITS>>>>>TERM LIMITS>>>>>>TERM LIMITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  18. neil a

    My only wish is to move to PA in time to vote against specter I sure hope the jerk gets voted out

    March 30, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  19. tired american

    Bordering age 60 . I can say the following with relative ease. It IS TIME to get these dinosaurs out of Washington DC. It is time for term limits, and a far younger generation to start writing the rules and making the game plan. It is their future being screwed over by this latest political disaster and all at the hands of aging, rich, power hungry control freaks. My children are now adults living in fear of what the politicians are doing to destroy this country. I will never get to retire and enjoy life and they will never get to live and ENJOY life (they'll be too busy paying for BS Health Care)

    March 30, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  20. Don Duckworth

    He needs to retire along with all the party leaders on both sides who have hijacked our votes. They listen to the party bosses instead of the people. Everything is about getting re-elected.

    March 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  21. Lance

    This is the exact situation the tea partiers are protesting, politicians who choose which party they belong to according to polls. Both republicans in name only (rino's) and democrats in name only have to go! Whatever happened to knowing where you politicians stood on issues by which political party they belonged to?

    March 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  22. joe J

    It is very apparent that this man has no morals he bends in any direction that keeps him in power with no real thought to the desires of the people that voted him in. IT'S TIME TO BOOT HIM FROM OFFICE.!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  23. Mo Ft. Bend

    I don't vote in Pa., but if I did, I would vote for Bozo the Clown before I would vote for A. Specter. Time for this guy to go !!!

    March 29, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  24. Greg K., PA

    Even Pat Toomey is quick to point out that November is a long way off and that polls right now are all but meaningless.

    I'm not worried. As Pennsylvanians learn just how out of touch Pat Toomey is (he's even more conservative than Rick Santorum!), his popularity will drop.

    This race is far from over.

    March 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  25. ronvandm

    Could be, its up to the people. To bad that our "elected children" just cannot work together.

    March 29, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  26. Melon

    Specter has no honor or class. He should be run out of public office.

    March 29, 2010 at 9:45 am |