Arlen Specter freely acknowledges that his switch from Republican to Democrat was driven by politics as much as principles. "I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," he declared upon his defection. "I have not represented the Republican Party."
Now there's proof that the man can read a poll. The primary opponent that Specter was set to lose to as a Republican has become a general election opponent that Specter now trounces.
According to a Quinnipiac poll released on Monday, the Pennsylvania Democrat would beat the man who nearly knocked him off in the 2004 primary, Pat Toomey, by a margin of 53 percent to 33 percent.
Having just crossed the aisle, Specter nevertheless does not suffer from skepticism among Democrats, who prefer him to Toomey by a margin of 85 percent to four percent (Specter gets independent voters, too, by a margin of 45 to 36 percent).
In fact, 81 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats already approve of the job Specter is doing -- despite the fact that he remains a staunch opponent of two key progressive agenda items: the Employee Free Choice Act and a public plan for health care coverage. Of the former, Quinnipiac reports the following finding: "Because Specter opposes the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act, 23 percent of voters are less likely to vote for him, while 14 percent are more likely and 60 percent say this will not affect their vote. There is little difference from the overall totals among union households."
The poll did not survey how potential Democratic primary candidate Rep. Joe Sestak would fair in a primary against Specter. It did, however, run the tabs for the possibility of former Gov. Tom Ridge running as a Republican. And, if that ends up being the case, Specter's electoral standing is far more precarious: 46 percent of voters would back the recently-minted Democrat, Quinnipiac finds, compared to 43 percent for the former Department of Homeland Security header.
"Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But even if he gets a strong challenge from a Republican, Specter is still better off for having changed parties because he seemed headed to certain defeat had he stayed a Republican and faced Toomey in a primary."