Brief of the Week May 4, 2009

WHAT NEXT IN SPECTER SAGA?: As the yammering in Washington over liberal Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch from Republican to Democrat last week began to die down, observers from the Nation’s Capital to Pennsylvania have begun to wonder what is next for the Pennsylvania senator as he prepares to seek a sixth term next year. Although there were two other Democrats running for the nomination for the seat (former National Constitution Center head Joseph Torasello and State Rep. Josh Shapiro), reports from Harrisburg were that Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell would try to shoo them out of the race in favor of Specter, his onetime boss at the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs left no doubt that the President would endorse, raise money and campaign for newly minted Democrat Specter. For all of Obama’s lionizing of the 79-year-old Specter for his “strong, independent, streak,” most Republicans agreed with onetime White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer that, in switching parties after concluding he couldn’t win a Republican primary, the Pennsylvanian put “power over principle.” Fleischer contrasted Specter’s move with that of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary to an anti-war leftist and then ran and won as an independent. Although things look good for former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey (who nearly beat Specter in the ’04 primary and is already running again in next year’s race), Keystone State pundits quickly noted that, with the filing deadline not coming until March of next year, there was the likelihood of a contested primary.

One politician mentioned frequently as a possible opponent to conservative stalwart Toomey and whose name elicited groans from conservatives is moderate Republican former Gov. and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge