Stories Swirl Around Specter Departure, Republican Primary

Within hours of Arlen Specter returning to the Democrat Party, two interesting story lines started swirling around my inbox: some Senators and the Republican commentariat started blaming Jim DeMint, and many got the impression John Cornyn wanted former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to jump in the race.

DeMint reportedly told Specter that DeMint would be supporting Pat Toomey in the primary. The story broke just after Specter bolted from the GOP, though the conversation had taken place a few days before. Likewise, according to several RedState sources and also a Specter staffer talking to ABC News, Specter had already made up his mind after seeing campaign polling showing Toomey would crush him in the Republican Primary.

That has not stopped the story line from perpetuating, with a host of Republican commentators railing against Jim DeMint for wanting an ideologically pure permanent minority. Those who know DeMint know that is not true. But more forthrightly, those who know Specter’s record in the Senate know it is ridiculous to make the case that keeping people like Specter is somehow vital to the Republicans becoming a majority again.

As I noted at RedState, Ronald Reagan once said, “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It cannot compromise its fundamental beliefs for political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers. It is not a social club or fraternity engaged in intramural contests to accumulate trophies on the mantel over the fireplace…No one can quarrel with the idea that a political party hopes it can attract a wide following, but does it do this by forsaking its basic beliefs? By blurring its own image so as to be indistinguishable from the opposition party?”

Reagan was right.

My colleague Hogan, who had an insider’s perspective of Specter’s antics, went through the list of ways Specter stabbed the Republican Party, not conservatives, in the back. In the list were Specter hogging Senate Judiciary resources for himself, supporting habeas corpus for GTMO prisoners, promoting his own priorities in FISA reform, allowing qualified judicial nominees to languish, wasting valuable time looking into the NFL spying (non)issue, etc.

When all the Republican commentators agree the Republican brand is damaged, they should understand that continuing to barter away freedom to those Republicans like Specter, who hurt the brand, is not a way to get back the majority.

Were that not enough, many people are wondering whether Cornyn is now trying to recruit former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge into the Pennsylvania Primary. Ignoring Pat Toomey’s tremendous win record in a Democrat leaning congressional district over the years, some in the NRSC think running the only Republican in Pennsylvania who makes Arlen Specter look conservative would be a winning strategy.

Ignore, for a minute, that Tom Ridge is one of the most well known friends of George Bush and Bush’s former Homeland Security Secretary. As National Review noted in 2000, Tom Ridge is not a stellar candidate. From 1987 to 1988, while in Congress, Ridge agreed with the Reagan White House only 40% of the time. He was a pro-tax, pro-abortion, weak national security candidate who voted to, according to John J. Miller, “support the nuclear freeze, abolish the MX missile, deny funding to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, and adopt Pat Schroeder’s plan to bar nuclear tests above one kiloton.” Likewise, in even easy election years, Ridge had trouble because the Constitution Party was able to rally pro-life voters across party lines to vote for their nominee.

Ridge would be a disastrous choice for the NRSC if it really wants to capitalize on Specter’s switch as a tool for fundraising. Ridge would also be a disastrous choice to tie up resources in a Pennsylvania primary. If, because of the shifting demographics of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, Specter cannot beat Toomey, a man to the left of Specter most certainly cannot win.