Biden, Casey, Rendell Lobbied Specter to Switch

At 10:25 am, in the Oval Office for his Economic Daily Briefing, President Obama was handed a note. “Specter is announcing he is changing parties," it read, a reference to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn. Seven minutes later the president was on the phone with Specter. “You have my full support," the President said, adding that he was "thrilled to have you.” "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said today in a statement . "Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans. When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing." There's some pragmatic politics at place here as well. Facing a grueling primary challenge against former Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Penn. -- who almost defeated Specter in the GOP primary in 2004 -- Specter could well have lost to Toomey this time.  In a Quinnipiac poll last month among registered Pennsylvania Republicans, Specter trailed Toomey 27-41 percent. That poll showed that Specter had a 29 percent favorability rating among Republicans, compared with 60 percent among Democrats. "I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters," Specter said, announcing that he is running for re-election in 2010 as a Democrat. "I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides." Last month, the irrepressible Gov. Ed Rendell told a Pennsylvania cable channel that he, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Vice President Biden from neighboring Delaware have all been lobbying Specter to switch. "We've tried," said Rendell. "Myself, Senator Casey, Vice President Biden have tried to talk him into it, but he's bound and determined to stay a Republican," Rendell said. "He doesn't want to see Republican moderates banished from the earth." Asked what would happen if Specter ran as a Democrat, Rendell said, "he'd be unopposed" in the primary and "he'd win 60-65 percent of the vote in the general election." - jpt

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