A new study shows that Sen. Arlen Specter has gone from voting with the Democrats 44 percent of the time when he was a Republican maverick, to 69 percent of the time in the first month after his party switch, to 97 percent of the time now that he drawn Rep. Joe Sestak as a liberal primary challenger. Only “contentious votes,” where a majority of senators from each party vote differently, are scored. According to the study, Specter defected on only one of 29 such votes since Sestak got into the race.
Originally, Specter pledged to remain independent rather than become a reliable party-line vote for the Democrats. At first, it looked like he was going to keep his promise when he declined to support cloture on card check, voted against Obama’s budget, and appeared to root for Republican Norm Coleman to beat Al Franken.
Then Sestak got into the Democratic primary race and Specter began to realize that a Northeastern Democrat who voted for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and Sam Alito (not to mention one who was endorsed by Rick Santorum and George W. Bush) was going to have serious problems. Specter pulled the same trick when he thought he was going to face a Republican primary challenge from conservative Pat Toomey, voting with the Democrats only 16 percent of the time in his final month as a Republican.
Toomey’s campaign is highlighting these results. “Over the past couple of months, Arlen Specter has become the poster child for everything that is wrong with Washington today,” Toomey Communications Director Nachama Soloveichik says in a statment accusing Specter of “changing his position so many times voters are beginning to get dizzy. Pennsylvanians are quickly learning that they cannot trust Sen. Specter from one day to the next.” The study was conducted by noted liberal number-cruncher Nate Silver of the website FiveThirtyEight.com.
You have to wonder about the priorities of a senator who goes from voting with a political party less than 20 percent of the time to 97 percent of the time in the span of a few months.