Specter is no dummy but a savvy politician. Yes, his leaping to the Democratic side is only to save his moderate hide, but polling numbers usually don't lie.
The new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania finds that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is in fairly decent shape going into his 2010 election campaign post-party switch, but there could be some vulnerabilities for Republicans to exploit if they play their cards right.
Against Pat Toomey, the conservative former Congressman whose primary challenge spurred Specter's switch, Specter leads in the general election by a whopping 53% to 33%. Specter's calculation appears to be correct, that he would have lost a Republican primary to Toomey but would also win big in a general election.
If the GOP wants to pick up this seat, stash the right winger Toomey in a closet and get behind former Governor Tom Ridge. The real question is this, can Republicans stomach the pro-choice Ridge? For me, he should have been the VP for McCain, but again the Republicans were too afraid to make the leap. After losing so badly in November 2008, can the Republicans make the break and starting in Pennsylvania?
However, it's a different story when put up against moderate former GOP Gov. Tom Ridge. Here Specter leads by only 46% to 43%. The question appears to be whether the Republicans can successfully nominate a moderate who would be a stronger candidate, or whether Toomey is guaranteed a win based on heavy conservative support.
The checks-and-balances argument could potentially have some cache for the GOP, based on this question: "With Arlen Specter switching to the Democratic Party, the Democrats could have enough votes in the Senate to block any filibusters by the Republicans. Do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?" Only 41% said this was a good thing, and 49% said it was a bad thing. This is despite President Obama's 66%-29% approval rating, too.
On the other hand, two other questions show that Specter is in good shape. First, his approval rating is 56%-36%. Second, check out the response on this question: "Some people say that by switching to the Democratic party Senator Specter is being disloyal to the Republican Party. Do you agree or disagree?" An answer of agreement on this question is basically a tautology -- and yet only 39% said so, to 57% who disagreed.
Arlen Specter does not bring nothing to the Democratic Caucus. He made this leap to save his political career and is depending deeply on the Obama machine or magic, but can he survive against Ridge? If the Republicans were smart, Ridge would be the perfect test for that party to break with the far right wing and stand with a pro-choice moderate.
And any Specter challenge? Congressman Sestak is meeting with SEIU President Andy Stern, today.