“I’m here to say it as plainly as I can: Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate,” George W. Bush said at the rally in Pittsburgh on Monday. He explained that Specter might be “a little bit independent-minded sometimes” but, à la Seinfeld, there is “nothing wrong with that.” Later that evening, the president helped the senator raise over $400,000.
Many conservatives agree that Specter is just a “little bit independent-minded,” though they might not be as nonchalant as the commander-in-chief about this. Specter is the man, after all, who enthusiastically supports taxpayer funding of abortions and voted against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban; who’s against tort reform and school choice; who supports racial quotas, who helped invent the verb to Bork, who voted “yea” on certifiable pinko Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and who, as the presumptive heir to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, threatens to toss any traditional jurists.
His record only gets better. Specter fought Bush’s tax cuts tooth and nail; has a lifetime love affair with labor unions; and was the only Republican senator to vote for a bill allowing the International Criminal Court to try American soldiers — an attack on our sovereignty so heinous even John F. Kerry voted against it.
Robert Novak noted in his syndicated column this week that Specter’s independence has drawn the support of a lot of unusual donors to a Republican campaign. Contributions over the years have come from George Soros, Harold Ickes, 9/11 Commission inquisitioner Richard Ben-Veniste, and Alan Dershowitz. Teresa Heinz Kerry, then sans the “Kerry,” also was a proud Specter supporter in 1992, donating money and time to his campaign, and cutting a commercial for him.
When Specter was recently asked what he thought Heinz Kerry would say if someone asked her, “What do you think about Arlen Specter?” Specter replied, “I think she’d say, ‘He’s been a very good senator. I like him.'” Ugh.
FELLOW PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR Rick Santorum has slavishly praised Specter in a television spot. Santorum also sent his own staff to buoy Specter’s team in the field, and has told everyone within earshot that the primary challenger, Rep. Pat Toomey, is “too conservative for Pennsylvania.”
That’s right, Rick Santorum, the man who raised a firestorm last year comparing consensual gay sex to “bigamy,” “polygamy,” and “incest,” has determined that Toomey, a man whose positions are very similar to his own, is just too far right. Meanwhile, Santorum’s new centrist pal Specter recently attended an event put on by OutFront, an organization that runs a PAC to elect pro-gay candidates.
But even Santorum and Bush’s strong last-minute push might not be enough to save the shaken Specter. Toomey continues to surge, despite a serious cash disadvantage. The latest polls put the race within the margin of error, with six days of campaigning to go.
Toomey recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the current “center-right coalition” in American politics had been a long time coming. “And it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal whether we seize this chance and actually advance the cause that we say we believe in — limited government, lower taxes, less government spending, the free-enterprise system, and personal freedom and personal responsibility and traditional values — that set of ideals that brought us together as a party.”
The national party expects Pennsylvania conservatives to pull the lever for Specter purely on the grounds that Toomey might lose in the general election. But that’s a weak sales pitch, at best, and right now it’s a buyers’ market.