The main difference between Arlen Specter and Jacob Javits is that Javits ran as a third-party candidate, splitting the liberal vote in November. Javits finished third with about 11 percent of the vote, probably helping Al D’Amato more than he hurt him. Javits also endorsed Ronald Reagan for president, rather than Jimmy Carter or the top of the New York Liberal Party ticket, John Anderson.
Running as a Democrat, Specter will face the Republican nominee one-on-one in a state that has been trending Democratic. It is indeed a chance to revitalize the Pennsylvania Republican Party, but Specter will not go down easily. He has chosen this course because he believes, rightly, that it is his best chance to hold onto his Senate seat.
Interestingly, Specter as a Democrat will go over much better with the party establishment than with the Democrats’ liberal activist base. Specter has voted with Republicans many more times on issues not limited to card check than Joe Lieberman ever dreamed of doing. Just weeks ago, he was preparing to run for re-election as a Republican defending his conservative credentials. Specter is a supporter of the Iraq war. He’d be favored to win the Democratic nomination, but a Kossite push for a “real Democrat” to run for the seat would not be impossible.
Even though the logic of this suggest Specter will move even further to the left to ingratiate himself to Democratic primary voters, I do expect him to occasionally be a thorn in his new party’s side (actually, his old party — Specter was originally a Democrat who became a Republican in the first place to help him win an election). Specter is not a Jim Jeffords by temperament. He will want to be the deciding vote on legislation and he’s not going to give up that role just because he’s decided to seek re-election as a Democrat.