Specter’s bombshell

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

You can’t blame Jewish Democrats for being jubilant; not only has Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection to their side of the aisle dealt a major blow to Republican efforts to slow down President Obama’s legislative agenda, but it represented another symbolic swipe at a Republican PR effort that continues to insist the party is making big inroads with Jewish voters.

Specter’s stunner means the Jewish Republican caucus in the Senate has evaporated into thin air; there won’t be any, unless former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) wins his longshot legal battle against the Democrat who beat him in November, comic-turned-pol Al Franken.

That  leaves Rep. Eric Cantor the only Republican Jew in the entire Congress. With Jews giving between 78 and 83 percent of their votes to Democrat Barack Obama in November, depending on whose numbers you believe,  it’ll be harder for party flacks to make their perennial case a political sea change is in the works.

But the Democrats shouldn’t get too cocky.

People who know him say Specter has always delighted in his reputation as an individualist, and that’s unlikely to change now that he’s a Democrat; he may  be as much a maverick with the Democrats as he was with the Republicans.

And while Specter will help the Democrats right now, the future is cloudier. He still has to win a Democratic primary next year and then beat back the likeliest Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey, whose strong lead over Specter in polling for a possible GOP primary is cited as one reason Specter made the partisan switch this week.

How will Pennsylvania voters respond to a lifelong Republican who switched to the Democrats when polls showed he was on the glide path to a primary loss? Nobody knows.

So big changes in the Senate, and a huge boost for the Obama administration?  definitely. A revolution? Probably not. But one thing you can bet on: Jewish Republicans aren’t celebrating today.

It’s also interesting to note how prospects for a Democratic super-majority hinge on three Jewish guys: Specter, who’s now cast his lot with the Democrats, and the Minnesota duo of Franken and Coleman – two New York Jewish boys who have joined the Frozen Chosen.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.