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Specter Finds The Joke's On Him If Ridge Runs

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Author Topic: Specter Finds The Joke's On Him If Ridge Runs  (Read 9 times)
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« on: May 07, 2009, 06:43:46 am »

                                       Specter finds the joke’s on him if Ridge runs

By: Chris Stirewalt
The Washington Examiner

The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee says, Tuesday, May 5, 2009, that former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge might run against Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania next year.
Rather than getting the last laugh, Sen. Arlen Specter has become the butt of Washington’s biggest joke.

And if Tom Ridge decides to jump in the race to replace him, Specter’s recent embarrassment will be
a deadly serious matter.

Specter believed his new Democratic brethren would honor him for defecting to their side. Instead he was humiliated — stripped of his seniority on Senate committees and sent to the back bench with the freshmen.

Specter negotiated his switch for months — including no fewer than 15 conversations with Vice President Joe Biden. He even won a public promise that he would get to keep his status from
Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But by explicitly promising to not be a “loyal Democrat” and even pulling for Norm Coleman to win his election appeal, Specter so infuriated the members of his new caucus that they decided to put him
in his place.

It took Democrats far less time to learn what Republicans needed decades to understand, namely,
that Specter’s allegiances are situational. Even having been shamed by Democrats, Specter will continue to vote with them or against them depending on his own self-interest and little else.

Republicans are loving it, because Specter had been having a good chuckle at their expense. Like
Dr. Evil finding out that his escape pod is stuck, dignified Specter has been made to look ridiculous.

Beyond Specter’s personal embarrassment, there will be other political consequences from his getting busted down in rank.

First, he will lose out on millions — maybe billions — of appropriation dollars that he would otherwise have been sprinkling around the Keystone State like electoral pixie dust over the next 18 months.

Second, when the high-profile Supreme Court confirmation hearings are televised this summer, Specter will be craning his neck to get into the frame, not leading the interrogations for Republicans.

There is little personal affection for the calculating former prosecutor in his home state, but there is considerable respect for Specter’s ability to pursue Pennsylvania’s interests and for his intellectual abilities. Stripped of his power to show these talents, Specter will struggle.

Machiavelli instructed that it is better to be respected than loved. But when respect fades and there
is no love to cushion the fall, it can be a painful landing.

But that does little to help Specter’s old foe, Pat Toomey.

Last week, the conservative former congressman was looking at a likely primary win over Specter followed by a possible victory over a lesser-known Democrat in the fall.

Now, Toomey is the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination but is facing a double-digit loss to Specter next November.

Many Republicans are now hoping that Ridge — former mayor of Erie, former congressman from the western part of the state and former popular two-term governor — will jump in the race.

Prominent GOP operatives who know Ridge and Pennsylvania politics tell me that there are two controlling issues for the 63-year-old former Homeland Security boss: his loss of income from giving up his private security consulting firm and his ability to beat Toomey.

Only Ridge and his accountant know the answer to the first question. Would ending a political career
on a high note be worth the aggravation of candidacy and giving up his chance to make some big

On the second question, though, there’s some hard data.

Recent polling has shown that Toomey enjoys a 40 percent favorable rating among Pennsylvania Republicans and a 3 percent unfavorable rating. Compare that with a 78 percent favorable and a 5 percent unfavorable rating for Ridge. In other words, if Toomey means to have any chance at winning
a primary, he would have to attack Ridge.

“Ridge is still in rock star territory with numbers like those,” one prominent GOP pollster said. “The only way [Toomey] can beat him is to light him up — and that will cap his own favorables.”

National conservatives see Ridge as vulnerable because he is a pro-choice, social moderate. And while that may have disqualified him from being John McCain’s running mate, the Pennsylvania GOP hasn’t changed so much that it would limit his prospects there.

Ridge has already been vetted by Pennsylvania voters, and there is considerable affection for him among Republicans as the embodiment of a happier electoral past.

Specter thought he had fooled them all, but if Ridge can afford to run, the joke will be on the new
junior Democrat in the U.S. Senate.
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