Arlen Specter, the senior Senator from Pennsylvania, switched parties for no higher reason than to save his seat: that is what should worry Republicans. That Specter thought he had no chance of winning as a Republican in a state that until the 2006 mid-terms had two Republican Senators is a sign of how far and how fast the GOP is falling.
A significant element of the GOP’s problems is illustrated by these two numbers, which come from Ron Brownstein’s latest National Journal column:
“In the Senate, for instance, Democrats hold 22 of the 58 seats representing the 29 states that twice voted for George W. Bush.
After Specter’s leap, Republicans hold just two of the 36 Senate seats in the 18 mostly affluent and secular “blue-wall” states that twice voted against Bush — and that have now voted Democratic in each of the past five presidential elections.”
The Republicans have to become competitive in the blue states; they cannot afford to cede so much territory to the Democrats. To do this, they are going to have to be prepared to accept more ideologically heterodox candidates and that Republicans in different parts of the country are going to differ in significant ways.
One way for the Republicans to demonstrate that they understand this, would be for them to select Tom Ridge, the former two term governor of Pennsylvania, as their Senate candidate there. Yes, Ridge is pro-choice—which stopped him from being selected as John McCain’s running mate—but he’s extremely popular in the state, an Obama operative once told me that their internal polling had the presence of Ridge on the McCain ticket turning the state into a toss-up.