"I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat," insisted Arlen Specter on Meet the Press. "I did not say that." And it's true, he didn't say that. But people about to compete in a Democratic primary in a blue state tend not to spend a lot of time trumpeting what loyal Democrats they aren't. It's a pretty simple principle. Lots of guys are bad, inattentive, boyfriends. But they don't announce it on the first date.
Meanwhile, Congressman Joe Sestak -- a Blue Dog Democrat, to be sure, but still a recognizable Democrat -- has $3 million in the bank, booked a meeting with Andy Stern over the weekend, and made the rounds on Firedog Lake. He's been pretty clear about his intention to primary Specter.
Which makes Specter's continued declarations that he's a not-loyal Democrat who will not support Democratic priorities like a public insurance plan and card check and the president's budget all the odder. Specter is facing a primary filled with Democratic voters who have spent a good chunk of their adult lives nominating candidates to try and topple...Arlen Specter. And he mainly seems to be hoping that they're not paying attention. On Meet the Press this weekend, David Gregory asked him why he switched parties. You could have imagined a well-rehearsed speech on the rightward drift of the Republican Party and the increasing attraction of Democratic ideals. Not quite:
MR. GREGORY: All right, let me ask you about this switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Back in April of this year on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" you said this: "So I'm trying to bring back those voters to the Republican Party. We need balance and I'm trying to get people to register Republican. We need a second party. Look here, our country is built on checks and balances. The only check and balance in America today are the 41 Republican Senators who can talk and filibuster, otherwise, the White House, the House of Representatives will be a steamroller." Well, Senator, you've now decided to join that steamroller. What changed?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, well, since that time I undertook a very thorough survey of Republicans in Pennsylvania with polling and a lot of personal contacts, and it became apparent to me that my chances to be elected on the Republican ticket were, were bleak. And I'm simply not going to subject my 29-year record in the United States Senate to that Republican primary electorate. I'm not going to do that.
Now, with respect to the steamroller, I have shown repeatedly my independence, willing to cross party lines when I thought the interests of the American people in Pennsylvania were required it. Take one example: There's a bill on employees choice known as Card Check, which would take away the secret ballot and impose mandatory arbitration. I said when I made the switch I'm still against that bill. Democrats are all for it, Republicans are all against it and I'm the critical vote.
Give the guy points for honesty, I guess. But he's probably going to have to come up with a better explanation for the Democrats in Pennsylvania. It's hard to see the state's liberal base responding to a candidate touting his careerist opportunism and political unreliability.