05/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

From a Purely Political Standpoint, Poaching Specter Is a Cowardly Move

So, you've got a blue state represented by a Republican. Said Republican is old, and not as popular as he once was. Additionally, he faces a primary challenge that some polls say he will not survive, which would leave Democrats running against a far-right yahoo. So, what do you do?

The proper response is to find a great Democratic candidate and run him/her against either that far-right yahoo or the old Republican, who has been left bruised and bloody following a drawn-out primary against said yahoo. Instead, the Democrats have essentially performed a tactical retreat here, moving Specter to the "D" column rather than risking an election that would clearly have favored the Democrats. Instead of an election that they probably would have won, leaving them with a solid Democratic senator, they have instead chosen an election that they will almost definitely win, but that will leave them with a mealy-mouthed political hack with all the morals of a wounded badger.

As blogging great Glenn Greenwald has already mentioned over at Salon, "prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill 'seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years' and is 'patently unconstitutional on its face.' He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill's passage." (Greenwald's entire piece is a must-read.)

Democrats now have Specter by the balls -- but only through the 2010 election. He's got to play ball now, so that the DSCC holds up its end of the bargain and disavows any competition for Specter in the Democratic primary. But even then, they haven't been pressing their advantage. In his news conference announcing his switch, Specter said that he remains against the nomination of Dawn Johnson and the passing of the EFCA.

Which leaves me wondering: What exactly are Dems getting out of this deal, anyway, especially when the alternative was an even-rosier picture than Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.)?

Contact Dan Sweeney at