Rick Santorum backed Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004. It was a tough race with Toomey mounting a credible, well-financed challenge.
Toomey’s candidacy, by his own estimation, was one of the precursors to the Tea Party movement:
The “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party” between big spending moderates and committed conservatives that was evident in 2004 may have inspired subsequent Tea Party efforts, Toomey suggested. Despite losing out on key endorsements from leading Republican figures in 2004, Toomey believes his primary campaign created a strong foundation for conservative activism that translated into victory in 2010.
Santorum not only backed Specter, he cut a commercial for him (h/t @allahpundit):
How disastrous was Specter prevailing over Toomey in 2004?
In April 2009, Specter switched parties giving the Democrats a 60th vote in the Senate when Al Franken was declared the winner in Minnesota and sworn in after court challenges in July 2009.
Specter put that vote to good use casting the 60th vote for cloture on Obamacare in late December 2009.
Having enabled Obamacare to proceed to a full vote, Specter cast the 50th vote for Obamacare (guaranteeing passage because Biden could cast a tie breaker):
They’re nothing if not prompt. Voting has begun on HR 3590, the Senate’s health care bill. It only needs 50 votes to pass; the only suspense is whether or not it will receive all 60 Democratic votes. C-SPAN is using the special running tally it reserves for important votes.
That’s it. Arlen Specter, the former Republican, secures the 50th vote needed for passage.
Does this mean Rick Santorum was responsible for Obamacare? No, not directly, and certainly not by design.
But endorsements have consequences. It was not hard to foresee in 2004 that Specter would vote with Democrats on some important issues, even if the issues could not be predicted in advance.
The historical fact is that if Pat Toomey wins in 2004, Democrats never get to 60 in 2009, and we never get Obamacare. Santorum helped defeat Toomey.
Update: How close did Toomey come? He lost by just 17,146 votes out of over 1,044,000 cast in the primary. Santorum’s endorsement mattered.