Ties prove fatal for one-time Republican once assured of an easy GOP renomination.
Wait a minute.
Let’s back up and stay focused on why, exactly, Arlen Specter lost this race — and had his career ended.
Two words: Barack Obama.
Last April, in 2009, Senator Arlen Specter, then the Republican senior Senator from Pennsylvania, stopped in Harrisburg for a meeting with a group of Pennsylvania conservatives. This was a fairly routine thing for Specter to do. He had had a career’s worth of disagreements with conservatives, but he had also had some serious agreements. While his famous opposition to Robert Bork is prominent among the former, among the latter was his fierce support for Supreme Court nominees Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito. Less publicized but equally strong was his support for Reagan and Bush lower court nominees, support that was critical due to Specter’s long-running role as a senior member or chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the past, Specter would eagerly walk into the lion’s den and dazzle with his command of the issues and his candor. Furious conservatives would relent, grit their teeth, shake their heads in begrudging admiration — and life would go on. After Specter came close to losing his 2004 re-nomination to then-Congressman and conservative champion Pat Toomey, things appeared to have settled in, with the recognition that Specter would get his one and presumably last term — his sixth. Toomey had given repeated signals that he had no intention of taking on Specter again and was instead focused on a race for governor. Specter was in the clear for an uncontested re-nomination to that sixth term.
But on this April day, trouble was in the air. You could almost smell it.
In February, Specter was only one of three Senate Republicans (Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins the other two) to break ranks and support the Obama $838 billion stimulus package as it passed the upper chamber on a 61-37 vote. Barely a month into Obama’s term, Americans were uneasy — and this was months before the explosion that was ObamaCare.
Sitting across the table from Specter, I listened in silence as he was peppered with questions about his stimulus vote. The people in this room were furious. There was no being dazzled here today. There was no silent gritting of teeth. This was something else entirely.
The stimulus vote had taken place in the Senate on February 9. And this very day — April 15th — Pat Toomey had announced he had changed his mind about running for governor. Spurred by the overwhelmingly bad reaction to Specter’s vote for Obama’s stimulus, Toomey had changed course and plunged into the Senate race.
On the spot what had once been a sure-thing re-nomination for Specter — by Republicans — was under siege.
The meeting over, I asked for an interview. Like a lot of Pennsylvanians, I have known Arlen Specter a long time. He is tenacious, a fierce competitor. The pluperfect example of the unglamorous underdog who wins simply because he persists and refuses to give up. Over the years he had lost races for district attorney of Philadelphia, mayor of Philadelphia, Senator from Pennsylvania, Governor of Pennsylvania. Even for president. And each and every time, like Philadelphia’s favorite fictional fighter Rocky Balboa, Specter had gotten up and climbed back into the ring, finally winning a Senate seat in 1980 on the undisputed coattails of Ronald Reagan. He would serve for thirty years, becoming the longest serving U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania history.
But there was something going on here this morning, as the atmosphere in that roomful of conservatives had just attested. The questions were barely polite, sharp. The atmosphere tense. No one could understand why Specter — or any rational, thinking person — would sign onto Obama’s so-called “stimulus.” Everyone thought it not just a waste of money but dangerous, a threat — a serious threat — to the American economy that was (correctly, as it turned out) but a precursor to even more reckless spending and indebtedness to come.
We stepped outside the building. I scrambled for notepaper and pen. Specter said he would have an aide tape the whole interview and e-mail the audio. He wanted to talk.
The polls that April morning, the very day of Pat Toomey’s formal announcement, showed Specter getting trounced. And I do mean trounced. Pennsylvania Republicans — reflective of the people we had just left in that room — were furious with him. Yet Specter was determined, not in the least an unusual posture for this man.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online