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What the Specter Defection Means for California Republicans

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By Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts

Exhibit A for why the California Republican Party is doomed to minority status, at least for now: state GOP chairman Ron Nehring's cut-off-your-nose declaration rejoicing in Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to become a Democrat.

Nehring's statement, issued Tuesday, shows that while CRP likes to declare itself a Ronald Reagan big-tent party, it's actually captive to a red-meat, hard-right, conservative wing which demands ideological purity from its candidates before allowing them to represent the GOP in general elections.

Put aside Nehring's insipid statement that Specter's big switch from the R to the D column was "a poll-driven decision based purely on selfish interests."

(OMG, you mean there's politics in the Senate? OF COURSE, Specter's decision was political: this is not a man known for unyielding principle. [Recall that Specter was the Warren Commission staff member who famously tried to explain away physical evidence in the JFK assassination with the "magic bullet" theory.] So he jumped when the right-wing jihadists, in the person of Club for Growth leader Pat Toomey, had him in their sights in the Pa. Senate GOP primary).

True enough, but that doesn't negate the enormity of Specter's crossover or what it says about the Republican Party nationally and - as Nehring clearly explains - in California.

"The Republican Party didn't leave Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party some time ago," Mr. Chairman said in his statement. "Arlen Specter decided on his own - no one forced him - to violate core Republican principles by voting for the wasteful $787 billion stimulus bill while every single House Republican, including California's entire Republican delegation, voted with taxpayers in opposition instead."

Warming to his task he added, "We're extremely proud of our Republican members of Congress from California for consistently standing with taxpayers while Arlen Specter was busy implementing Barbara Boxer's agenda."

Here's the problem with his logic: for six of the last eight years, the Republicans in Congress were the ones rolling up record deficits behind record government spending. None of the puristas among the skunk Specter crowd seemed too worried about excessive government spending when they held power.

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