UPDATED: Arlen Specter: What the EFCA?

Our holdout Republican senator here in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, continues to believe in a magic-bullet theory, execpt now that it's a single bullet that he keeps shooting himself in the foot with, politically, all but guaranteeing the end of his storied political career.

The latest twist is what looks and smells like a flip-flop (although Spector is using the arcania of the Senate rule to claim that it isn't one) on the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, the union-backed legislation that would make it easier to organize workers through the use of check cards instead of traditional secret-ballot elections. Spector signalled his support for this two years ago when -- in a break from the GOP party line -- he voted to bring the proposal to a vote. Now he says he doesn't support EFCA and won't even support bringing it to a vote this time, now that his 60th vote is decisive.

"My vote on this bill is very difficult for many reasons," Specter said in a Senate floor speech, minutes after the news was broken by the Washington Independent. "It is very hard to disappoint many friends ... who are urging me to vote their way."

But Specter affirmed that he would join his fellow Republicans to block cloture on EFCA, effectively dooming the union-organizing bill's chances of becoming law in its current form.

The politics of Specter's 2010 re-election bid is tricky indeed. His natural constituency, moderate Republicans like himself, is all but extinct in Pennsylvania, especially as thousands switched parties to vote in the 2008 Democratic presidential party. Conservative Republicans, the remaining primary voters, jumped ship a long time ago, and Specter won't win a single one of them back with today's transparent move. It's highly unlikely that Specter can win a GOP primary with ex-Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly ousted Specter in 2004, and if he does, he today has guaranteed that no unions will endorse him in the fall. He rejected his only lifeline, the offer of a Democratic endorsement and millions in campaign funds to be raised by Ed Rendell and others.

As noted here earlier this year, I remain one of probably two liberals in America (George McGovern is the other, and he has a grudge with the Teamsters dating back to the 1972 election) not sold on the virtues of EFCA. That's the not the point. I'm trying to analyze the politics of Specter and it's hard because they don't make much sense -- they look like the final, hopeless moves of a chess master who's been cornered but can't bring himself to tip his king over.


Longtime Sen. Arlen Specter is trailing a Republican rival in the race for the 2010 Senate seat, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

Mr. Specter trails former Congressman Pat Toomey, 41 to 27 percent, the poll said. Twenty-eight percent are undecided, however.

The real "wow" part is this:

Overall, voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Mr. Specter by 45 to 31 percent, but he gets a 47 to 29 percent unfavorable score from Republicans. He gets a 60 to 16 percent approval from Democrats and a 41 to 35 percent positive from independent voters, the poll said.

Somebody really needs to tell Arlen there must be 50 ways to leave your party -- just slip out the back, Jack.