Palm Beach, Florida — Senator Arlen Specter’s support for the 1,071-page Obama-Pelosi-Reid “stimulus” package will cost taxpayers $787 billion. That vote may cost the Pennsylvania Republican his job.
“I am very likely to make a run for the Senate,” says Pat Toomey, a former Keystone State congressman and free-market stalwart. “Specter’s vote was a profound betrayal of the Republican Party and conservative principles. It’s a big factor” behind Toomey’s potential challenge to Specter in 2010’s Republican Senate primary.
This rematch would pit Toomey, 47, against Specter, 79, seeking his sixth consecutive Senate term. Buoyed by conservative irritation with Specter’s barely Republican, big-government record, Toomey came within 2 percentage points of retiring Specter in 2004. But Specter prevailed, thanks to the support of GOP establishmentarians and the incumbent-loving, Republican-lite Bush political team.
For Specter, loyalty flows uphill. While top Republicans back him in tight races, he typically joins Democrats when the GOP desperately needs him. Exhibit A: Specter’s February 13 “stimulus” vote, which will cost more than $1 trillion after interest payments are slathered atop its $787 billion budget.
“This stimulus bill is such a really outrageous lurch to the Left by the federal government,” Toomey tells me. “It’s not just a trillion dollars in spending. It is a huge expansion of government, undermining welfare reform, and staggering amounts of money to be borrowed. All of this could have been blocked. When the House Republicans voted this down, they empowered the Senate Republicans to demand real pro-growth tax cuts, less spending, and less of this terrible, liberal policy. President Obama would have had to agree, because he would have had no bill in the face of united Republican opposition. Instead, these three — Specter plus Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine — capitulated.”
For many Republicans, Specter’s vote for this pork-encrusted, incentive-challenged boondoggle was the final insult. “In a two-person race, Specter is toast,” James Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His late-February survey of 700 registered Pennsylvania voters found that 53 % want a “new person” as senator. So do 66 % of Republicans. (Error margin: 5.9 %.)
Pennsylvanians simply could be tired of looking at Specter, who has been on the national stage since he served the Warren Commission after JFK’s 1963 assassination. Specter concocted the Magic Bullet Theory while Toomey played cowboys and Indians with toy guns.
Toomey can expect donations from Republicans eager to replace the unreliable, profligate, pro-union Specter with a dependable champion of limited government, individual freedom, and personal responsibility. Toomey’s sunny disposition, optimism, and desire to help Americans liberate their natural-born talents recall happy warriors like Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp.
Since 2005, Toomey has led the Club for Growth, a Washington-based pro-market advocacy group and PAC that is one of America’s most influential voices for fiscal discipline and economic progress. The Club’s smoothly run retreat at The Breakers here demonstrated the organizational skills of Toomey and his loyal staff. From March 5 – 8, about 100 guests exchanged ideas with your humble commentator and important people such as Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, and representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Tom McClintock of California.
Toomey believes he can defeat a Democratic opponent. “I know how to win general election races,” Toomey says. “I won a congressional seat in a Democrat-leaning district that has voted for the Democrat in the last five presidential elections. I was reelected twice, and I’ve never lost a general election.”
He sounds eager to preach the free-market gospel at a time it’s sorely needed.
“Everyone’s first concern is restoring prosperity and regaining lost jobs,” Pat Toomey says. “This would be all about the kinds of policies that will help our economy. This is surely not about massive taxes and spending, serial bailouts, staggering deficits, and quasi-nationalizations. This mix is not helping. Somebody needs to stand up on the Senate floor and say, ‘Enough!’”