POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 4/28

Specter’s Return to the Democratic Party

Sen. Arlen Specter’s announcement that he is switching parties isn’t his first time. Specter actually began his political career as a Democrat and switched to the Republicans in 1966 when running for district attorney in Philadelphia. 

He wrote about it in a his autobiography, Passion for the Truth: “Changing parties involved a high level of trauma. It wasn’t like changing religions, but there were elements of arguable disloyalty and opportunism that rubbed me the wrong way.”

A Filibuster-Proof Majority?

With Sen. Arlen Specter’s party switch — and Al Franken’s expected seating — President Obama has an opportunity to remove a major procedural roadblock in the Senate that his predecessors would have envied.

Karen Tumulty: “How long has it been? You have to go all the way back to 1937 to find the last American President who enjoyed what was, in practice, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, according to Senate Associate Historian Donald Ritchie.”

Politico quotes Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME): “We’re heading to having the smallest political tent in history, the way things are unfolding.”

Specter is 21st Senator to Switch Parties

According to the U.S. Senate historian, Sen. Arlen Specter is the 21st senator to switch parties during their Senate service.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.” 

— Sen. Arlen Specter, quoted by ABC News, in a phone conversation with President Obama about switching parties.

Behind Specter’s Decision

Sen. Arlen Specter told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about his decision to switch parties in person yesterday.

The Hill reports Senate Republican leaders “received no heads up” from Specter about his decision.

Meanwhile, Ben Smith reports Vice President Joe Biden “deeply involved” in the talks with Specter to make the switch.

NBC News says Democrats promised Specter would face no Democratic challenger but that he was promised no committee chairmanship in return for switching parties.

Who Told Cornyn?

Just asking… How upset is Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) after stepping up as head of the NRSC to back Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) in a Republican primary against Pat Toomey (R) now that Specter is switching parties?

Said Cornyn: “I believe that Senator Specter is our best bet to keep this Senate seat in the GOP column. A vote for Arlen Specter is a vote for denying Harry Reid and the Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate.”

Update: A statement from Cornyn: “Senator Specter’s decision today represents the height of political self-preservation. While this presents a short-term disappointment, voters next year will have a clear choice to cast their ballots for a potentially unbridled Democrat super-majority versus the system of checks-and-balances that Americans deserve.”

Numbers Behind Specter’s Decision

Quinnipiac poll in late March showed Sen. Arlen Specter running more successfully as a Democrat for reelection and receiving a 71% to 16% approval rating from Democrats.

Ben Smith: “A poll by a labor 527 assembled for the purpose, I’m told, found that Specter’s favorable numbers among Pennsylvania Republicans were lower than either President Obama’s or Democratic Senator Bob Casey’s.”

Specter Will Switch Parties

Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run for re-election in 2010 as a Democrat, according to the Washington Post.

Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Al Franken (D) is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota.

Said Specter: “I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary. I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”
[Read more…]

Quote of the Day

“I’m not as partisan as I once was. I don’t like what politics has become.”

— GOP pollster Frank Luntz, quoted by The Wrap, on trying to change careers.

Kennedy May Run in Illinois

Caroline Kennedy isn’t likely to become a senator anytime soon, but one of her cousins might.

The Chicago Sun Times “has learned Chris Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, may be this/close to entering the U.S. Senate sweepstakes from Illinois.”

Said a source: “Right now, it’s an 85 percent chance Chris is going to do it.”

Gone, but Still Playing a Role

CQ MoneyLine notes there are at least 20 former members of Congress who died over the past decade who left behind active campaign funds totaling more than $7 million collectively.

The kicker: They are still making campaign contributions to various candidates and political organizations, as well as other expenditures.

State laws and federal regulations address many campaign issues, but there’s not much on the books dealing with how campaign funds of deceased lawmakers or candidates should be administered.

Boxer Will Run for Re-Election

Though all signs suggested Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) would run for re-election in 2010, some analysts thought she could make a bid for governor instead. But the California lawmaker made it official this past weekend at the state Democratic convention, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Said Boxer: “I’m formally announcing, in front of this convention, that I am running again for the United States Senate.”

CQ Politics rates the race as Safe Democrat.

Sebelius Nomination Up for Vote

With the swine flu spreading, the Senate is on the verge of confirming Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services. Debate is set to begin later this morning, with a vote expected this afternoon.

Sebelius is expected to get the 60 votes needed to prevent a GOP filibuster, though the AP says the vote “could be close. Anti-abortion groups have been lobbying Republican senators to vote against her.”

First Read: “The left has been pulling its hair over the fact that conservatives have been holding up her confirmation — over abortion — during this swine flu frenzy. Indeed, it’s amazing that there’s been very little finger-pointing that the president doesn’t have an HHS secretary, surgeon general, or his own CDC head. Obviously, if Republicans starting pointing fingers, they’d get grief right back given that members of their party have slowed down Sebelius. This entire incident, as it turns out, is a pretty good lesson for those who believe the partisan nature of Washington can hold up the serious work of government.”

How Kennedy Turned Personal Low into Career Peak

Though political aides counseled Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) not to mention the incident when he was campaigning for reelection in 2006, the Washington Post notes the congressman ignored the advice.

“The incident was the pre-dawn drive the congressman took straight into a security barrier outside of the Capitol on May 4, 2006. At about 2:45 a.m., the bleary-eyed scion of America’s royal family staggered out of his green 1997 Ford Mustang convertible and informed police he was late for a vote.”

“In turning his crash into a crusade, Kennedy, who at age 41 is serving his eighth term, performed an act of political jujitsu that transformed one of the lowest moments of his life into his greatest political achievement.”

Steele Avoids Blame Game After Losing NY-20

CQ Politics notes that “if there is a silver lining for Michael Steele in the GOP’s special election loss in upstate New York, it could be that the new head of the Republican National Committee is finally taking more flak from Democrats than fellow Republicans.”

In a Web video released April 24, Broken Steele, the Democratic National Committee used Steele’s own words to portray him as the Republican loser in the wake of the Murphy victory.

Republicans, for the most part, remain silent.

House Democrats Target Bachmann

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee triggered a war of words Monday with a certain outspoken Minnesota congresswoman after it launched a new Web site, Bachmann Watch, CQ Politics reports.

The site purports to highlight the “extreme rhetoric and false claims” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) “makes to bolster her outrageous statements.” And it hits Bachmann for her assertions on cap-and-trade energy legislation, her record on earmarks, and government spending.

Most See Obama as Different Type of Politician

New York Times/CBS News Poll: “More than two-thirds of the poll’s respondents call Mr. Obama a different kind of politician, while just 1 in 4 say he is a typical politician. When those who called him different were asked what sets him apart, most said it was more a matter of his style of governing and his personal qualities than his policies.”

Fox Will Not Air Obama News Conference

For the first time since Barack Obama took office, a major broadcast network is refusing to grant the president’s request for primetime coverage, according to the Live Feed.

Fox issued a statement saying it will air regular programming (detective drama Lie to Me) Wednesday night instead of Obama’s 100-day news conference. ABC, CBS and NBC have issued statements saying they will carry the president’s telecast.

Many Conservatives Don’t Think Colbert is Joking

An Ohio State University study finds that conservatives were more likely to report that Stephen Colbert “only pretends to be joking” on his Comedy Central television show “and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements.”

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