Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 28, 2009

THE GOP MODERATES.... The Politico has an item this afternoon with a headline that reads, "Moderates blame conservatives." It's about centrist Republicans who are most unhappy about colleagues like Arlen Specter no longer feeling welcome in the party.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) ... slammed right-wing interest groups for pushing moderates out of the party.

Specter switched parties Tuesday after a recent poll showed him badly losing a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year to Club for Growth founder Pat Toomey. Toomey's staunchly fiscally conservative political action committee backs only those Republicans who support a low-tax, limited-government agenda and comes down hard on those who break with party orthodoxy.

"I don't want to be a member of the Club for Growth," said Graham. "I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country -- and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective."

"As Republicans, we got a problem," he said.

That's probably true, but isn't the fact that Lindsay Graham considers himself a GOP moderate part of the problem?

For what it's worth, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), an actual moderate by Republican standards, said her party just doesn't offer support to GOP lawmakers who fail to toe the conservative line. Republicans, Snowe said, tell moderates, "Either you are with us or against us."

Any chance Snowe might follow Specter across the aisle? I doubt it, but Snowe told CNN she's been approached about a party switch. "I've been asked, but not recently," she said. Expect Reid & Co. to connect with the Maine Republican fairly soon.

If I had to bet, I'd say we won't see any more party switchers for a while. The only two credible possibilities -- Maine's Snowe and Collins -- both know they can win re-election without jumping ship, a luxury Specter didn't enjoy.

That said, it's just one more angle to keep an eye on.

Steve Benen 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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But if you know you don't ever have to worry about re-election regardless of party membership, why not join the one that doesn't treat you like a pariah?

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 28, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Graham's definition of a "moderate" Rethug: I may vote with DeMint, Coburn, Inhofe, and Bachman, and I may kowtow to Rush and Beck, but, unlike them, at least I can appear almost sane (well, to the MSM, anyway) and am housebroken and everything, so no need to put straw on the floor of the set when I come on a Sunday show.

Posted by: Marlowe on April 28, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

God forbid an inside the beltway oligarch lose his lifetime Senate seat in a primary to his own party.

Democrats should be rejecting beltway dead wood like Specter instead of welcoming him with open arms. It's a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: grinning cat on April 28, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

The only two credible possibilities -- Maine's Snowe and Collins -- both know they can win re-election without jumping ship, a luxury Specter didn't enjoy.

That's right, and that's why it doesn't seem that useful to speculate on the Maine senators. However, Specter's move has a potential effect on other 2010 Senate races.

Mark Kirk, the GOP favorite for Burris's seat, is in a moderatish district and has had a reputation as a centrist, but he's already started skidding wildly to the right in an attempt to secure the nomination from the held-hostage-by-fringe-freaks Illinois GOP. The battle between what an entire state wants and what a state GOP is demanding of its candidates is playing out in a number of venues nationwide.

Posted by: shortstop on April 28, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

He may as well have formed the Pennsylvania for Specter party. Primary his sorry ass.

Posted by: dr. bloor on April 28, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't it also give the remaining moderates (yes, all two of them) some cover? Back off on the arm twisting because we might jump sides too?

Posted by: 1234 on April 28, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Specter blamed Club for Growth for the loss of several congressional positions by winning primaries for right wingers that couldn't win in the general elections: Lincoln Chaffee and Heather Wilson are the two I remember.

Posted by: Danp on April 28, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I can't speak for Snowe or Collins, but Specter *was* a Democrat in the before switching parties in 1965; he had run for Philadelphia DA on the Republican ticket, despite being a registered Dem at the time.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on April 28, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

There are four "possibles" that could cross the aisle, now that Specter's set the precedent. Collins and Snowe are the two most obvious, but given the amount of damage that Ohio could suffer from the madnesses of the new "21-percent-solution base", it wouldn't be all that much of a longshot to see Voinovich cross over.

The fourth---and it's a longshot, but still there, is McCain (which is where Lieberman could come into play).

Granted, it's a best-case scenario, but all told, it's conceptually possible for Dems to haul into the Summer with a 64-seat majority. Yes---it can mean legislation getting watered down---but it would effectively kill the GOP's filibuster control over the entire legislative process, and then some.

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 28, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose that, on some level, it's better to have Specter inside the tent pissing out rather than outside pissing in, but given that he's still likely to either side with the Republicans on most issues or, as he did with the stimulus package, work with the Blue Dogs to pull the teeth out of anything that smacks of Progressivism, I'm not sure that this should be chalked up as a win for anyone but Arlen. Still, it probably goes up the Republicans' butts a mile, so...yahoo!

Posted by: wheresthebeef on April 28, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Lindsey Graham also said via FOX news

that Specter's decision now puts pressure on a lot of red-state Democrats, who campaigned on their conservative credentials, to step up.

"They may be the only thing that can stop this radical liberal agenda," he said.

If Graham considers himself so moderate, why is every Democratic agenda "radical".

FYI Steve, Lindsay is actually spelled Lindsey.

Posted by: about time on April 28, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

According to the National Journal, the Repbulican moderates in the Senate have been decimated since November.

In order, the most liberal Republicans were:
Snowe, Olympia, R-Maine
Collins, Susan, R-Maine
Smith, Gordon, R-Ore.
Specter, Arlen, R-Pa.
Coleman, Norm, R-Minn.
Lugar, Richard, R-Ind.
Voinovich, George, R-Ohio
Warner, John, R-Va.
Hagel, Chuck, R-Neb.
Stevens, Ted, R-Alaska
Murkowski, Lisa, R-Alaska
Sununu, John, R-N.H.

Looking at the list, of the 12 most liberal Republicans in 2007, 9 of them are no longer Republican Senators. Specter switched parties and the others, except for Lugar, lost or retired.

Of the Republicans still around, Lisa Murkowski is #4 and Orrin Hatch is #5.

It is hard to conceive of a party where Hatch is more liberal than 7 out of 8 Senators.

Wow, Lugar and Hatch are on the far left of the Republican party

Lugar and Hatch!!!!

Posted by: neil wilson on April 28, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Specter blamed Club for Growth for the loss of several congressional positions by winning primaries for right wingers that couldn't win in the general elections: Lincoln Chaffee and Heather Wilson are the two I remember.

Factually wrong on both counts. Chafee won his 2006 primary against a Club for Growther (though barely), but lost in the general election to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. Chafee was personally popular, but the primary issue was giving control of the Senate to the Democrats. Wilson was pretty much a mainstream wingnut, if not quite as bad as some, and voluntarily relinquished her House seat to run for the Senate, but lost in the Rethug primary.

Posted by: Marlowe on April 28, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The fourth---and it's a longshot, but still there, is McCain

I think there is a slightly better chance that Ted Stevens will have a swastika etched into his forehead and start a commune somewhere.

Posted by: Danp on April 28, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

The fourth---and it's a longshot, but still there, is McCain

Not in a billion, gazillion, skillion years (although the vision of McCain presuming himself Democratic party elder and giving that young man in the White House a few tips made me laugh). Recognizing that the current GOP can't get arrested in most towns, McLoser is busy trying to position himself as the Last Sane Republican, sending his daughter out as ambassador to the Ute of America.

He appears to be unaware that a) the GOP is years away from figuring out that non-radicals should really be running the party, b) when it does figure it out, McCain will be in his 90s and in no condition to run for anything, and c) having spent the last two years kissing religious right ass, McCain's creds as a principled moderate are nil.

Posted by: shortstop on April 28, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think Specter's a mole.

Posted by: Wes on April 28, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, Neil?

Can you give us a link where that list came from and when it was created and what context? "Decimated" is not clear in your context.

Gordon Smith was defeated by Jeff Merkley in November.

Posted by: Simp on April 28, 2009 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Lindsey Graham's fairly good, actually, for a Southern Republican. I actually voted for him last November, though that was largely because his "Democratic" opponent was insane- he struck me as a Trojan Horse for the Constitution Party who would pull a Lieberman the second he got elected. Still, it's funny that Graham brags about being "as conservative as Strom Thurmond" and then complains when people see the party as too conservative.

Posted by: Jurgan on April 28, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

At this rate it may become a rerun of 1936 when the total for Repiglican senators was......... 16 !

Posted by: stormskies on April 28, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Snowe, Olympia, R-Maine
Collins, Susan, R-Maine
Smith, Gordon, R-Ore.
Specter, Arlen, R-Pa.
Coleman, Norm, R-Minn.
Lugar, Richard, R-Ind.
Voinovich, George, R-Ohio
Warner, John, R-Va.
Hagel, Chuck, R-Neb.
Stevens, Ted, R-Alaska
Murkowski, Lisa, R-Alaska
Sununu, John, R-N.H.

Looking at the list, of the 12 most liberal Republicans in 2007, 9 of them are no longer Republican Senators. Specter switched parties and the others, except for Lugar, lost or retired.

Of the Republicans still around, Lisa Murkowski is #4 and Orrin Hatch is #5.

Pulling out the dead wood from your list, I get:

Snowe, Olympia, R-Maine
Collins, Susan, R-Maine
Lugar, Richard, R-Ind.
Voinovich, George, R-Ohio
Murkowski, Lisa, R-Alaska

Which makes Murkowski #5, and makes Hatch, assuming he falls in after Murkowski, #6.

Posted by: Disputo on April 28, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I would rather have Snowe than Specter, to be honest. Indeed, I find Specter to be highly problematic. I am also not favorably impressed by the fact that he did this purely as a matter of electoral calculus. It's sort of like a spy changing loyalties at the moment he realizes it is inevitable he is going to be caught. If Snowe jumped, as with Jeffords, it would be clearer that she had had it with her party, not vice versa.

Which is to say, it wouldn't surprise me at all that Specter changes virtually nothing but does introduce a whole new opportunity for sandbagging the Democratic agenda. I certainly hope he isn't given anything remotely close to a chairmanship in a committee.

Posted by: Barbara on April 28, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

At heart, America is a moderate nation given to progressive reform--albeit somewhat grudgingly. Today is a watershed moment not because it gives Democrats a filibuster proof majority, but because it has given a new voice to moderation. The Democratic party party encompasses formerly moderate republicans as well as the extreme left. Within the debates of the democratic party, with its super-majority, will the voice of the large majority of Americans be heard again. The odd marginalization of moderates began in 1980. America of old has re-emerged, through the governance of a new coalition. Republicans have become a Third party. The tenuous thread which bound libertarians to the radical religious right, and to the quasi-anarchistic anti-tax, anti-government fringe, has virtually broken. That third party will be fragmented into several "bases" very soon. Some care more for guns, homophobia, jingoism and car racing more than others. And they will litmus test themselves into obscure, ever-more radical elements.

Posted by: Sparko on April 28, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

So, this is the same guy who talks out of the left side of his mouth and votes out of the right. I was someone else describe him as a "feckless equivocator and political opportunist." Just what the Democrats need more of.

Posted by: Greg Worley on April 28, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Snowe will never switch; some describe her as a RINO (Republican In Name Only,) but she is actually an RBM (Republican By Marriage)-- two times over! So, unless she divorces former Maine Gov. John "Jock" McKernan, she won't switch parties.

(And, yeah, I know, Carville-and-Matalin, Schwarzenegger-and-Shriver, blah blah blah, but I really don't see that happening for Snowe-and-McKernan).

Posted by: The Caped Composer on April 28, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

backs only those Republicans who support a low-tax, limited-government agenda and comes down hard on those who break with party orthodoxy.

A limited-government conservative? Where?

I see a bunch of authoritarians that don't want to raise taxes to pay for their paranoia-driven defense spending.

Once conservatives stop towing the line on the crazy, there'll be more of them. I couldn't, in good conscience, even begin to support someone who, for example, questioned evolution even through clenched teeth. That doesn't even get to the ones the goofy "Americans are entitled to as much cheap energy as they want" subset or the "Why should corporations have to pay for their waste stream?" subset.

Being pro-environment to guys like Cheney means that they like to go out and shoot chickens with expensive English shotguns.

Posted by: ChrisS on April 28, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I just want to point out to all of you Hillary Clinton haters out there, you can thank Hillary for this. Because of the bruising Pennsylvania primary, all of the soft Republican-registered voters changed their registration to Democrat. These were the voters that saved Arlen last time around.

Posted by: DR on April 28, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think there is a slightly better chance that Ted Stevens will have a swastika etched into his forehead and start a commune somewhere.
Posted by: Danp

I'd heard he already did that. Where in Hades do you think "jackboots-on-a-pig" Palin came from?

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 28, 2009 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

When I played politics in my rather misspent youth, I played Republican politics and had a good time until the corporate christian conservatives took over. With a their icky ethics ("Be 'moral'" & "What's the Constitution between friends?") and inability, or refusal, to get along with other people I abandoned them.

Since then, I have been happier, more relaxed, and healthier. I am sure that Senator Specter will feel the same way.

Posted by: Kurt on April 28, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

The links I used were these

http://nj.nationaljournal.com/voteratings/sen/lib.htm#results

http://voteview.ucsd.edu/sen110.htm

am I wrong or is Voinovich, George, R-Ohio still in the Senate? I thought he lost but ....

Posted by: neil wilson on April 28, 2009 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

What about a switch the OTHER way? I mean, Ben Nelson has been awfully squirrelly lately, hasn't he?

Posted by: Ayotunde on April 28, 2009 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

The battle between what an entire state wants and what a state GOP is demanding of its candidates is playing out in a number of venues nationwide.

That's what we've got right here in California. The only reason the R's won the last gubernatorial election was that Schwarzenegger isn't really considered a Republican by anyone except himself. (Plus Phil Angelides sleepwalked through his entire campaign, the dumbass.)

Republicans keep nominating vocal anti-choice statewide candidates and then wonder why they get creamed in the general election. Hint: 'cause those of us living closer to the coast outnumber you. Deal with it.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 28, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

What about a switch the OTHER way? I mean, Ben Nelson has been awfully squirrelly lately, hasn't he?

Agitating against "radical" progressive Democrats in the majority caucus gets Nelson influence and camera time. He changes parties, he's just another small-time loser conservative.

Posted by: Midland on April 28, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Nelson? Has any sitting congressman or senator ever left the majority for a seat in the minority? (Not counting those times that the switch actually caused a change in majority status...)

Posted by: wr on April 28, 2009 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Has any sitting congressman or senator ever left the majority for a seat in the minority? (Not counting those times that the switch actually caused a change in majority status...)

Strom comes to mind. I'm sure there's been others.

Posted by: Disputo on April 28, 2009 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Lugar has announced that he'll vote to confirm Dawn Johnson. Watch for him to become a target of the Purity Posse.

Posted by: OriGuy on April 28, 2009 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

You are probably right that Snowe and Collins won't bolt because they are pretty safe, but considering that the congressional Republicans seem intent on destroying themselves - it will be interesting to see how they treat these two. If they go more hard right and take it out on the two people who hold safe GOP Senate seats they may drive them away. Look at Jeffords case.

Posted by: ET on April 29, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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