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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Republicans Spinning Specter

The reactions from Republicans to Arlen Specter’s defection yesterday are in some respects more interesting than the event itself.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) lost no time repairing to the op-ed pages of the New York Times to accuse conservatives of driving off Specter and deliberately shrinking the party’s Big Tent with cultural-issues litmus tests.
Snowe was obviously warning her Republican affiliation shouldn’t be taken for granted, either.
RNC Chairman Micheal Steele, in a not unprecedented case, seemed to be of two minds (as noted by Jason Zengerle), first expressing unhappiness over Specter’s move, but then dismissing him and his “left-wing voting record.”
In a spin that I am quite sure we will hear more of in the next few days, Patrick Ruffini of NextRight heaved a sigh of relief that having lost one Senate vote, Republicans may now, finally, lay down the burden of responsibility they’ve so patriotically shouldered up until now:

Today the mandate was cemented. The Democrats now have full control over Washington, D.C. They can now break the filibuster. And any failure to do so is not the result of GOP “obstruction” but of self-beclowning Democratic overreach of the sort they couldn’t possibly hope to get away with if any semblance of a balance of power existed.
The Democrats are now fully responsible for what happens in Washington. And though it is necessary that the GOP go above and beyond to demonstrate their eventual fitness to govern, their first responsibility right now as the loyal opposition is to hold the majority in check. And that will entail a lot of “no” votes — and persistent explanation of why the “no” votes will lead to better outcomes for ordinary Americans.

(BTW, Patrick, you need to get word to Norm Coleman that he’s gumming up your scenario for the GOP by refusing to concede he lost the 2008 election. There certainly ain’t no “full control” of the Senate by Democrats so long as Coleman’s lawyers keep Al Franken from assuming his seat.)
In a similar vein, Michael G. Franc at National Review‘s The Corner chortles happily that Specter’s defection will suddenly cast a giant spotlight on moderate Democrats whose perfidious support for socialism will now be exposed.
But I’ve found these examples of “constructive” thinking only after some research. By and large, and overwhelmingly, the conservative “base ‘n’ blogosphere” reaction has been one of absolute joy at getting rid of this RINO. The list of 50 trackbacks to Michelle Malkin’s “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” post about Specter speaks volumes, with titles like “PA RINO Specter Goes Home to Dems” and “Good Riddance, and Take Your Friends from Maine With You.”
All in all, the hopes and fears of many Republicans seem to have been nicely summed up in a remarks on the Senate floor last week by the increasingly rabid Jim DeMint of SC:

I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.

Looks like he could get his wish sooner rather than later.

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