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National Republicans Get Behind Specter

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter got a boost with an endorsement today from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Jahi Chikwendiu/Washington Post)

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn released a letter today offering a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Arlen Specter in his coming primary against former congressman Pat Toomey, a decision driven by a concern that the challenger cannot win a general election in Pennsylvania.

"My job as head of the NRSC is to guide the GOP back to a majority in the Senate," wrote Cornyn in a letter to Pennsylvania Republicans. "I can't do that without Arlen Specter. With him as our nominee, I can target our campaign resources toward beating Democrats and growing the Senate Republican Conference."

The implication of those lines is clear: if Toomey is the Republican nominee next November, "campaign resources" may not flow from Washington to Pennsylvania.

Cornyn's endorsement of Specter is rightly seen as a fastball under the chin of Pennsylvania Republicans -- a clear sign that the current incumbent is the candidate they need to get behind if they want a GOP senator in 2011.

Will that strategy work? It's hard to know.

The Republican base in Pennsylvania has shrunk considerably since Specter beat back Toomey 51 percent to 49 percent in 2004. A combination of distaste/disgust for President Bush and his administration's policies and a huge recruitment and registration effort by President Obama's campaign in 2008 have led to a deep erosion among moderate Republicans and those independents who leaned toward the GOP.

Base voters -- in both parties -- tend to vote with their heart not their head and, therefore, electability appeals usually fall short. And, many of the most ardent Republicans in Pennsylvania have long harbored doubts about Specter and view this vote as their chance to register their dissatisfaction once and for all.

Specter is a formidable candidate and having the full weight of the national party behind him will help his cause. But, he is still in deep trouble.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 14, 2009; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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If the Republican don't run Spector they can forget the votes of the many, many Independents and Democrats, like me, who have voted for him in every general election in which he has been a candidate.

My position within the local Democratic Party compels me to publicly support the entire Democratic ticket, but the public can't see what I do in the voting booth,

If I weren't active in the Democratic Party I would probably change my registration just so I could vote of Spector in the Republican primary!

Posted by: akahidden | April 16, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

There are precious few Republicans left who can get past the idiotic litmus tests posed by the frothing-at-the-mouth wing of their Party, and actually deal thoughtfully and pragmatically with the opposition (not mention, win elections in blue states.) Specter, for all his numerous faults, is one of them. Even Cornyn, nobody's idea of a liberal sweetheart, can recognize this, and went to bat for Specter.

But you can always count on the GOP base to pull their "my way or the highway", make-no-compromise-take-no-prisoners routine, and torpedo themselves along with guys like Specter, in the name of All That's Right.

Go ahead, wingnuts. Present the voters with your "my way or the highway" ultimatum. In the last two elections, we pointed you to the nearest highway, and we'll be happy to do it again.

Posted by: WaitingForGodot | April 15, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Fellow posters: Please excuse my last post, as it left out crucial words. Here's how it should have read:
Well, well: A mindless neocon like John Cornyn "supports" Specter, the type of Republican conservative hypocrites like Cornyn normally have no use for.
Power over the principle, every time. The GOP practically has made that an art form.

Posted by: vegasgirl1 | April 15, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Well, well: A mindless neocon like John Cornyn, the type of Republican conservative hypocrites like Cornyn normally spit at.
Power over the principle, every time.

Posted by: vegasgirl1 | April 15, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Ordinarily I am a great admirer of Sen. Cornyn. But on this issue he is simply dead wrong. This is another example of the good old boy's club at work. Sen. Spector is an embarassment to the GOP. As a RINO he has done great harm to the country. It is this type of blind loyalty which makes me reconsider my support of the GOP.

Posted by: petekleff | April 15, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I generally like John Cornyn. He's my senator, and was a great Attorney General. But this may singlehandedly be the stupidest thing he has ever done.

Specter can't win re-election.

Specter, like John McCain, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe represent everything that is wrong with the republican party: I.E., they are nothing more than democrats who refuse to join the party.

This is why the republican party is dying. Until republicans return to being the party of Reagan, the party of solid conservatism, they are done.

Posted by: gary4205 | April 14, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

"Specter is a formidable candidate and having the full weight of the national party behind him will help his cause. But, he is still in deep trouble."

Aside from the fact that he is older than dirt and nearly as old as Byrd, and looks even older, Arlen might in fact do much better if he took thebobob's advice and changed parties, to The American Reform Party. Were he younger and therefore a potential rising star, and not a risk to go Jesse Helms on us at any moment, that might be a good thing, but given his age Arlen ought to declare now that he has had it with his Party, and intends to gracefully retire come the end of his term.

THAT, of course, would also be something of a rarity among Senators, and especially Republican Senators, (the Byrds of the Senate being much fewer than the Haydens, the Helmses, the Thurmonds, ...)Who only retire when pragmatik tells them that riding up that last campaign coolie just leads to the Greasy Grass.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 14, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

"Hey! They're not idiots! Posted by: jsperez |"

Well, just because even the Republicans can recognize that Tomey is a guaranteed disaster for a candidate, that doesn't actually show that they aren't idiots, because any idiot can see that Tomey will take down the seat and any candidate who has the bad judgment to be seen with him.

Ther're still idiots, just not that stupid.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 14, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

The people of Pennsylvania would be much better served by someone that will not put his finger to the political wind on every decision. They would also do themselves a favor by starting now to see the destructive nature of selling their freedom to the power hungry Democratic party. Specter has been awful and the decay caused by the left-wing extremism of Obama and the Democrats will eventually start to take its toll.

Posted by: dftpub | April 14, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

theobserver4 writes:
"I wouldn't mind at all if Specter were defeated in the primaries and ran and won as an Independent."

That isn't allowed in PA. If you lose your primary, then you are out of the general. Specter would have to run in the general election as an Independent and forgo the GOP primary. He has publicly stated that scenario will not happen.

Posted by: mnteng | April 14, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Let's see whether tomorrow's 'tea parties' fomented and organized by Fox and wealthy rightwingers generates any violence, shall we?

"The extreme right — those who are “hate-oriented,” “mainly antigovernment,” or those dedicated to a “single issue” — is a legitimate threat that law enforcement must deal with, according to a new assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. The report, which was coordinated with the FBI and is being given to federal, state, and local law enforcement, warns:

[R]ightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.

Most extremists have made “rhetorical” statements and have “stopp[ed] short of calls for violent action,” but since the 2008 election, right-wing extremists are “reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.” Some highlights from the report:

Anti-immgration: “Rightwing extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence. If such violence were to occur, it likely would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.”

Recruiting returning vets: “Rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”

Gun-related violence: “Heightened interest in legislation for tighter firearms … may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements.”

If the “uncertain economy” and a “perceived rising influence of other countries” continues, “rightwing extremism is likely to grow in strength,” the report adds. “[L]one wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

Posted by: drindl | April 14, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I live in Philly. I will not be voting for Specter. He completely sold us out when he voted on the Stimulus Bill. I am through with him and his Big Government, high taxing ways. We need some one to fight for the Forgotten Man and fight to eliminate the progressive income tax and make everyone pay (not just the top 50%) their fair share. We need someone who is concerned with Individual Growth, not Government Growth. We need someone to limit Federal spending to less than 20% of GDP. That person is Pat Toomey.

Posted by: D-Wall | April 14, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Holy Cow!

I find myself in complete agreement with "the bobbob."

If Specter did become an independent, it would be a dramatic step toward what could be an historic (and, historical) absolution.

It might even lead to a clearing up of some of history's mysteries.

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind at all if Specter were defeated in the primaries and ran and won as an Independent. It would drive the point home that the base is what is holding the Republicans from electability. If they can become a fiscally responsible party that doesn't legislate morals they might get somewhere. Maybe just maybe it would open up the political landscape with (3)I in the Senate. yea right......

It just p*ssed me off royally when Lieberman did it to us (me) in CT. He's more of a charlatan than Specter is though.

Posted by: theobserver4 | April 14, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

They are behind Phil or Arlen?

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 14, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama won PA by double digits despite Palin's multiple visits there.
If Specter loses the GOP primary, that seat will definitely go Democrat.
Harcore conservatism doesn't work here... After all, Santorum lost his seat by 25 percent in 2006 :)

Posted by: sgtpepper23 | April 14, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I thought Toomey would fit in perfectly as a Texas Republican.

Maybe he could move to Texas and raise the average IQ of both states.

Posted by: jimk8mr | April 14, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

This is a perfect example of the thieves and crooks circling their wagons to protect their own. The GOP lost my support with their out of control spending and lust toward being Democrats.

The GOP deserves to be wiped off of the earth by a new party. I certainly look forward to Arlen Sphincter being booted from the gang of thieves. And I look to a new party supporting less government and more accountability with no theives or crooks tolerated in their ranks.

Posted by: Guilden_NL | April 14, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Spector just give up on the Republican Party? America has.

If he stood up and said that he can no longer associate himself with a Party that is so extreme, that has done so much damage to this country, that is fomenting rebellion and that he's becoming an Independent, he would be re-elected in a flash.

Arlen, these folks are not your friends.

Posted by: thebobbob | April 14, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse



Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is a good and decent man who carries inside him a heavy burden of history.

He can revivify his reputation as a fair-minded advocate for human and civil rights by confronting an ugly truth...

...credible reports of ongoing domestic torture via radiation weaponry approved by the Bush-Cheney Department of Justice for use on civilians deemed as "undesirables" by federal and/or local law enforcement agencies nationwide.

This extrajudicial punishment -- victims say it is nothing less than torture -- is compounded by a coordinated series of multi-agency action "programs of personal destruction" which drain the family finances of the families of unjustly "targeted" persons, making it impossible for them to economically survive.

These programs surely have contributed to the nation's financial meltdown -- and may indeed be a primary cause of the global economic crisis.

Sen. Specter, these abuses are going on in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. You are a skilled prosecutor; if you cared to sharply question police chiefs and other law enforcement and federal officials that you know personally, and if they responded candidly, you could incontrovertibly confirm the accounts presented in the articles linked below -- articles based on first-hand accounts of events happening in the Philadelphia area:


Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. How will the PA GOP react? Will they rally to Toomey, or do they side with the national party and grudgingly back Specter?

AnAmerican5 - are you in PA?

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 14, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

This is truely a sad day - the end of the Republican Party.

I'm leaving it. This guy Spector is the perfect example of someone who is out just for himself and does not give a damn about American ideals.

What a disgrace

Posted by: AnAmerican5 | April 14, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

With Toomey in, are Reps. Sestak and Schwartz seriously reconsidering?

Posted by: jsperez | April 14, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey! They're not idiots!

Posted by: jsperez | April 14, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

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