Arlen Spector, who recently appeared on the Howard Stern Show (and not for the first time), is leaving the Republican Party to run for his Senate Seat as a Democrat. Spector, a moderate Republican, caught most of Washington off guard. He supports abortion rights -- a tough sell in Pennsylvania's exurbs -- and was one of 3 Senate Republicans (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of moderate Maine) that supported President Obama's stimulus package. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who has known Spector for years and works with him on the Judiciary Committee, compared the decision to Jim Jeffords of Vermont's 2001 decision to switch parties. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader in the Senate, made this statement today:
"'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.'"
The northeast is rapidly becoming a Republican graveyard. In 2008, Democrats captured five Republican Congressional seats in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (ousting even Centrist Republican Chris Shays). It is almost symbolic that Pat and William F. Buckley's palatial apartment -- the stuff of many a northeast Republican dinner party -- was sold by their son Christo after their deaths (Georgette Mosbacher will have to carry that dwindling torch). Is there any room, one wonders for a Northeast moderate in the Republican party?
Arlen Spector, an Aquarius, was true to his astrological sun sign. Unpredictable. In a party that rewards conservatism and predictability, Spector ran into sharp elbows. Spector has been a bete noir of National Review, nemesis of the Club for Growth and conservatives, ran Pat Toomey against him in a primary squeaker in 2004. Former Representative Pat Tommey, who narrowly lost the primary battle in 2004, announced that he would run against Spector again on Tax Day. Spector in his presser that just ended hinted that he probably could not win a Pennsylvania Republican primary against Tommey, because of his vote for President Obama's stimulus package. "I am not prepared to have my 29 year career decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania said.