Specter as Lieberman?
With a recent Susquehanna Poll showing two-thirds of Pennsylvania Republicans wanting a new senator and conservative Pat Toomey gearing up for a primary challenge next year, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter said last week he might run for his sixth term as an independent.
In an interview with The Hill newspaper, the 79-year-old Specter (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 44%) ruled out running as a Democrat because “I think the United States very desperately needs a two-party system.… And I’m afraid that we’re becoming a one-party system, with Republicans becoming just a regional party.”
However, he also held out the possibility of running in 2010 as an independent, just as Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman did successfully after losing the Democratic primary to an anti-Iraq-war liberal in 2006.
Specter did concede, however, that “it’s pretty hard to run without a party.” Moreover, in contrast to Connecticut, Pennsylvania has a “sore loser law” that would bar him from running as an independent if he loses the Republican primary next May to former three-term Rep. Toomey (who came within two percentage points statewide of denying Specter renomination in 2004). Unlike Lieberman, the Keystone State senator would have to make a decision to go independent early on and forgo the Republican primary.
As one of only three Republican senators to support the Obama stimulus package earlier this year, Specter has come under increasing fire from the right. Now, he is under intense pressure to reverse his vote last year as the lone Republican senator to favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which includes the notorious “card-check” that would end the secret ballot in union elections. Specter says he is now “neutral” on EFCA.
For his part, Lieberman, the last senator to successfully overcome the nominees of both major parties and win re-election without any party backing, is very positive about the idea of Specter doing the same thing next year.
“I’d be delighted to have him in my caucus,” Lieberman told The Hill.
See the rest of Gizzi on Politics for the week of March 23.