Why did Arlen Specter defect? It’s tempting to paint Specter as part of a post-Obama ideological realignment, but there’s a much more concrete explanation, Eric Kleefeld writes for Talking Points Memo: reelection. Pennsylvania is a closed-primary state, and between 150,000 and 200,000 registered Republicans switched parties to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary.
The Republicans who switched tended to be moderates—like Specter—leaving the state GOP a hard core of staunch conservatives. Specter himself acknowledged that his vote for the stimulus package didn’t sit well with such tea-party types. The senator knew his days as a Pennsylvania Republican were numbered—and knew just as well that he’ll probably retain the support of many of those 200,000 turncoat Republicans in next year’s Democratic primary.