Arlen and the Dems: The 60 percent solution


We must be a nation of political junkies, because here we are in early 2009 in the not-last throes of the Great Recession, and what people really want to talk about is the 2010 elections, unless they're already thinking ahead to the draft-Sarah-Palin movement for 2012 (which will happen, if there is a God). And so people -- conservative people -- are stepping up to challenge Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter from winning a 5th term..

Pat Toomey, the former congressman who almost upset Specter in 2004 (at 10 p.m. that primary election night, my frantic editors ordered me to start writing a "political obituary" of Specter that didn't run when he eeked out the victory), is running again, and the smart money is on the challenger. Thousands of moderates have drifted away from the Pennsylvania GOP over the last six years. The only thing that would save Specter is too many challengers (like perennial candidate Peg Luksik) which could happen.

Or switching back to the party he belonged to as a young lawyer in the early 1960s, the Democrats.

A year ago, I would have urged the Democrats not to deal with Specter, to get their own man or woman elected in 2010. Specter's been around for a long time and he's been all over the map, so anyone -- liberal, conservative, centrist -- can find things not to like. For progressives, it's Anita Hill (kind of water under the bridge at this point) and the botched JFK investigation (not water under the bridge, as far as this writer is concerned). But there's always the flip side, his fairly liberal views on social issues and his common sense vote last month for helping the economy when his party-mates were happy to sink it.

So I think the Democrats would be smart to embrace, endorse and raise a wad of cash for Specter in 2010 -- but only under one condition, which is that he switches parties today to give the party a 60th filibuster-proof vote in the Senate (once the Norm Coleman farce in Minnesota is shut down) and also gives a broad pledge of at least general support for President Obama's economic plan in 2009.

No deal today, and that means today as in this month, and the Dems should start pouring money into an attractive challenger who is going to cakewalk if Toomey emerges on the Republican side, considering that Pa. is moving from battleground state to deep blue.

It's a 60 percent (of the Senate) solution where everybody (except Pat Toomey) wins. Do the players have the guts to do it?