James Forsyth

What Specter’s defection means

What Specter's defection means
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The defection of Arlen Specter is a nice momentum booster for Obama on the eve of his 100th day in office. To be sure, by switching parties Specter has saved himself a debilitating primary fight and pretty much guaranteed himself re-election in a state that is becoming increasingly Democratic. But even if the move is hardly a profile in courage, it should still worry the Republican Party. It means that once Al Franken is seated the Democrats will have 60 votes in the Senate; if the Democrats are united they will be able to vote down a filibuster.

Specter’s departure also acts as an illustration of how the Republican Party is shrinking. That Specter thinks that he has to be a Democrat to be elected in Pennsylvania shows how far out of reach the state that, other than Texas, President Bush visited the most in his first term—he even imposed steel tariffs against his own principles to protect the Pennsylvania steel industry in a bid to curry favour there—now is for the Republican Party.

If the Republicans are not going to have to rely on taking every swing state to win the White House, they desperately need to put states like Pennsylvania back in play. They need a Republicanism that appeals far beyond just the South and the Plains States. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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