Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Scott Wheeler, the executive director of The National Republican Trust PAC was recently quoted as saying...."Republican senators are on notice." "If they support the stimulus package, we will make sure every voter in their state knows how they tried to further bankrupt voters in an already bad economy."
All but three heeded his warning. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania were the three GOP senators who voted for the bill Tuesday, and while all three were deep into the process of negotiating the particulars of the Senate bill, only Specter is up for immediate reelection, in 2010.
This is not the first time Specter has gone against the party grain and voted his conscience, which has made him a legendary figure on the Senator floor with the Democrats, but not necessarily the most popular man in any conservative caucus. Specter's decision to vote for the stimulus bill has irked many Republicans in his home state and may have virtually guaranteed a primary fight.
Speaking Tuesday, Specter said his vote has resulted in a flood of negative phone calls to his office and predicted it would lead to a tough primary battle. "I have no doubts about the political disadvantage," he said. "[I'm] losing a lot of political skin about this and I've got a primary battle coming up in about a year. ... It means I'll have to raise a lot more money." (hint, hint???)
The PAC's pledge came the same day another conservative group launched a series of robo-calls in Pennsylvania and Maine, urging constituents to call their Republican senators and demand they stop supporting Obama's stimulus package. And, for the record, according to a recent national poll, only 32% of republican voters are in favor of the stimulus package.
Delaware-based Let Freedom Ring on Tuesday began making 100,000 robo-calls in Pennsylvania and 50,000 in Maine, according to Colin Hanna, the group's president. "Would you be willing to contact your senator, Arlen Specter, today and tell him to vote no on the Obama tax and spend plan?" the Pennsylvania call asks, before providing a phone number for Specter's Washington office.
And the Democrats desperately need those three votes for the final version, which will be a merging of the House and Senate passed versions. Collins is already barking like a dog over the "size" of the package, which was first negotiated at $780 million, but has become larger in the Senate, and President Obama wants even more added, like the re inclusion of the school building funds.
And while Specter is a well seasoned veteran of the Senate wars, and the feelings of power some votes can give you, Snowe and Collins of Maine are having career years of sorts; they certainly have never been as popular, or under more pressure. Should even one of these three fold to PAC pressure, the first Obama initiative will go down the tubes, with the Geithner banking package to go down next. Not the start Obama was looking for, especially in his first 100 days, traditionally the best time to get something accomplished for an incoming President.
You might not like his every vote, both the fact remains that for all of his faults, Arlen Specter is his own man, which is a true rarity in American politics today. And the Obama nation remains desperate for his leadership and his ability to keep his colleagues from Maine in line. Even if it costs Spector his job in 2010. And, if past history holds, his real competition will be from a fellow Republican, as the Democrats will certainly not target his seat as a thank you for his support.

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