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Senator Specter defects to Democrats, strenghtening Obama's hand

Tuesday's switch by the independent-minded Pennsylvanian also helps Democrats to solidify power in the Senate.

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Now, Specter should breeze to victory in the Democratic primary, with few declared candidates and none of his stature, and could face Mr. Toomey in the general. But given the travails of the Republican Party, both nationally and in Pennsylvania, Specter at this stage looks to be the favorite.

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GOP's retort
A statement from the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, had a “good riddance” tone to it, even though there is no doubt that the party is smarting over the high-profile rejection.

“Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not,” Mr. Steele said.
“Let’s be honest – Senator Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record.

“Republicans look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don’t do it first.”

The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee also framed Specter’s decision as a self-centered one.

“Senator Specter’s decision today represents the height of political self-preservation,” said John Cornyn (R) of Texas in a statement. “While this presents a short-term disappointment, voters next year will have a clear choice to cast their ballots for a potentially unbridled Democrat supermajority versus the system of checks and balances that Americans deserve.”

Liberals not overjoyed

Reaction from the left, which has long sought to oust Specter from his seat, was tempered. And Specter’s opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), legislation aimed at helping unions boost their membership, could make him a tough sell to a key Democratic constituency in Pennsylvania: organized labor. In his statement announcing his party switch, Specter said his position on EFCA, also known as “card check,” would not change.

“Even as we applaud Specter for switching parties, we shouldn't simply concede the primary,” writes liberal activist and columnist David Sirota on Huffington Post. “Indeed, there needs to be a contested and vigorous primary, especially since Specter's EFCA announcement means he will need pressure on his left, and especially since the primary winner in the increasingly blue state of Pennsylvania has a great shot of defeating someone like Toomey."