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How disastrous was Santorum’s endorsement of Specter? Can you say ‘Obamacare’?

How disastrous was Santorum’s endorsement of Specter? Can you say ‘Obamacare’?

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.

Related post:  Stop making excuses for Santorum’s endorsement of Arlen Specter


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When Specter was in office, he was the first Senator I would have been happy to see leave office, before Ted Kennedy. The support for Specter over Toomey is close to unforgivable, in my book.

The endorsement of Specter, while idiotic and deeply destructive (as anyone who had ever noticed Senator “Scottish Law”‘s career previously would have known) it was completely expected from someone who valued party over ideology.

Sort of like an endorsement of, say, Dede Scozzafava.

I wish to point out something.

Senators, despite their poses on camera, have more loyalty to each other than they do to their party or their constituents.

You and I don’t matter. The party does not matter, in many cases. “I know so and so and want to see him win”. That’s what Santorum was thinking. He had more loyalty to his buddy than to his principles or party.

The republican establishment backed Spectar; therefore, no one can blame Santorum for backing him. The establishment was sure Toomey could not win against the dims. Anyone who wanted republican elite support toed the line. Just like today with the republican elite backing Romney. Without establishment support the road to success is long and hard especially with them working against you all the way. Look what they did to Palin. They only want the inner establishment candidates to win. They are no better than the dims in this. Do as we command or die politically. REgular citizens’ thoughts and desires are so much manure to them. They do, after all, call us Bubba behnd our backs. How contemptuous is that? Power and money is everything and they, like the dims, will go to great lengths to retain them.

    William A. Jacobson in reply to BarbaraS. | December 30, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    The Republican establishment backed Dede; it was no excuse for Newt and no excuse for Santorum. If Santorum was the consistent conservative, he should have stood tall for the conservative challengers, not gone along to get along.

      I think you are letting your partisanship get the better of you.

      First, it is more an issue of whom each person supported, not what the GOP establishment did. You are right in identifying Pat Toomey’s 2004 primary bid as a precursor to the Tea Party movement. In both cases, I disagreed with both party and the candidate it supported, but as you tacitly agree 2004 was a far different political environment than 2009.

      Secondly, in 2004, Santorum was the sitting Junior Senator supporting his Senior Senator’s re-election bid. Arlen Specter held many key posts (he became chair of the Judiciary in 2005), and was therefore someone whose favor Santorum could ill-afford to lose. In 2009, the party powers foisted a new candidate upon the constituents of NY23 (remember, it was a panel of 11 county GOP chairmen that made that selection not voters) – Doug Hoffman ran as the Conservative Party’s candidate. Gingrich, long out of any official GOP capacity, and not even a citizen of that state, chose to support Scozzafava amidst the grassroots clamor against her.

I agree with the analogy to Dede Scozzafava, except I would go further. Attacking Santorum for endorsing Specter because of Obamacare is beyond absurd. Let’s examine this:

It’s early 2004. George W. Bush is running for a second term in an election that is no guarantee but certainly looks decent enough. Republicans control both houses of Congress and, at that point, their control looks secure for the foreseeable future. Barack Obama is an unknown Illinois State Senator, campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat but well behind Blair Hull in the polls for the Democratic primary.

Arlen Specter, very much a RINO but still loyal to the GOP leadership on procedural matters, is being challenged by a brash Congressman Toomey. Pennsylvania’s junior senator, who has served with Specter for 10 years and probably has developed rapport with him, surveys the scene and decides to help his colleague.

Yet, critics of Santorum imply that he should have foreseen the following:

1. Bush’s second term would turn south quickly, resulting in a much less favorable environment for Republicans.

2. Barack Obama would win the primary and general election in Illinois

3. The GOP’s fortunes would continue to falter, resulting in a Democratic victory in 2006 and making the Democrats odds on favorites to win the presidency in 2008.

4. Obama would run for president and defeat Hillary, thanks in part to a shameless media water carrying.

5. The GOP would nominate a weak candidate whom Obama would crush.

6. Obama would not track to the center, but would push left, particularly with the crown jewel long desired by the progressive base: national healthcare.

7. Specter, facing a second challenge by Toomey, rather than retire gracefully at 80, would choose to switch parties.

8. As a Democrat, Specter of course would vote for Obamacare (even RINO Senators Snowe and Collins voted against it).

Really??? So, Santorum is basically supposed to be omniscient?

There’s plenty to criticize Santorum on. But blaming him for Obamacare, due to an endorsement six years earlier when the political culture was VASTLY different is pure inanity.

    William A. Jacobson in reply to BurkeanBadger. | December 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    The National Republican Congressional Committee was supporting Dede. Newt should have backed Hoffman (as I did at the time) and he has admitted the mistake. But Santorum should have backed Toomey against what clearly was a loose-cannon inbumbent who was so bad that Santorum felt compelled to make a commercial defending him. Santorum is not expected to see the future, but Specter sticking it to the party was entirely foreseeable it was just a matter of on what and when.

As Barbara points out, Bush was supporting Specter. I don’t believe Santorum was in a position to dissent.

“On July 1, 2005, Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court effective upon the confirmation of a successor. President George W. Bush first nominated John Roberts to the vacancy; however, when Chief Justice William Rehnquist died on September 3, Bush withdrew Roberts’ nomination to fill O’Connor’s seat and instead nominated Roberts to the Chief Justiceship. On October 3, President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to replace O’Connor. However, Miers withdrew her acceptance of the nomination on October 27 after encountering widespread opposition.

On October 31, President Bush announced that he was nominating Alito to O’Connor’s seat, and he submitted the nomination to the Senate on November 10, 2005.”

yea rick really screwed up supporting arlen in 2004

“He[Arlen Specter] met with many conservative Republican senators, and based on assurances he gave them, he was recommended for the Judiciary Committee’s chairmanship in late 2004. He officially assumed that position when the 109th Congress convened on January 4, 2005.”

via wiki

And probably all the candidates, including Bachmann, would have done the same thing at that time.

Cowboy’s Rule Number 7 of Primary Voting: Dudes who lose their last election by 19 points should never, ever, be voted for in the primaries.

Personally, I’m hoping Ron Paul pulls out a win in Iowa and NH. After being discredited so, perhaps it’ll bury the ridiculous importance that gets placed on those oddball contests.

Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda. Oh, if we could only look into the future and make our decision then. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

    William A. Jacobson in reply to BarbaraS. | December 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    He could not have seen Obamacare coming, but he could have seen Specter intrigue and turncoat-ism coming. That was Specter’s reputation. After all, Santorum had to make a commercial explaining why Specter was not a liberal.

    SmokeVanThorn in reply to BarbaraS. | December 31, 2011 at 10:16 am

    To all those who defend Santorum on the ground that he could have been expected to see the future:

    It’s not a question of seeing the future. It’s a question of being a principled conservative. On this occasion, Santorum failed miserably.

    It’s precisely because we can’t see the future that supporting someone with a conservative philosophy is crucial.

so specter’s stamp as chairman of the jud. commit. of roberts and alito means nothing?

    neomom in reply to newrouter. | December 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    You don’t think that whichever Republcan Chairing the Judiciary would have green-lighted Roberts and Alito? Don’t give Benedict Arnold more credit than he deserves.

really interesting that santorum is responsible for spector’s actions after 2008.but newt and dede in 2010 is no big deal?

    Astroman in reply to newrouter. | December 30, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Aye, just like Romneycare is the devil, but Newt’s support of the healthcare mandate was cool. At least Romneycare was at the state level, vs. Newt’s mandate at the federal level.

    Perry 2012 =)

I’m sorry, this is too much coming from people endorsing Newt, who endorsed Dede Scozzafava.

Specter was key in getting Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court. I remember with relish how Specter laid the smack down on Teddy Kennedy during the Alito hearings.

Specter was a traitor, but he at least had some redeeming qualities. I can’t imagine a SINGLE redeeming quality concerning Dede Scozzafava.

TeaPartyPatriot4ever | December 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Yep, anyone who endoreses that pathetic lowlife, backstabbing, parastic bottom feeding dwelling leech of a traitor- Arlen Specter, has lost any and all support, from any conservative tea party patriot, period. And has thus thrown away any chance he had of his Republican Nomination victory..

“You don’t think that whichever Republcan Chairing the Judiciary would have green-lighted Roberts and Alito? ”

the politics gets smaller. you think, for example: that de mint is going win over the maine sisters? really? arlen be squish so be da sistas. deal with the senate as it was.

    Jon Kyl was next in line after Arlen. Yeah, I think Roberts and Alito would have done just fine, even win the Maine twins. And Senator Toomey would have not given ObamaCare 60 votes. Read some of the articles on Arlen’s book, after switching parties he was “hurt” by slights by Obama and Reid. His wife told him some line about being Arlen Specter… Face it, it was all about his own ego and who would stroke it the most.

The Democrat in 2004 was Joe Hoeffel, a popular Congressman from the Philly suburbs (who happened, unfortunately, to be my Congressman at the time). While he ultimately lost to Philadelphia-native Specter 53-42%, he looked like a formidable challenger early on. In contrast to Specter, Toomey was from western Pennsylvania and would have lost the Philly suburbs to Hoeffel and with it the election. At least, that was the prevailing view and it was probably accurate. Toomey barely won in a more favorable off-year climate in 2010 against another popular Philly-suburb Congressman. To observers in 2004, endorsing Toomey was going out on a limb as much as endorsing Christine O’Donnell in 2010: turning a likely win into a likely loss.

That said, I wholeheartedly wanted to be rid of Specter and was disappointed that Santorum (and Bush for that matter) were willing to live with his apostasies when a great candidate like Toomey was putting himself on the line. But if I were trying to protect a slim (51-49) Senate majority as Bill Frist and Santorum were trying to do, it would have been a tough call.

    valleyforge in reply to valleyforge. | December 31, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Apologies, Toomey was from the Lehigh Valley, not western Pennsylvania – still removed enough that suburban Philadelphians would consider him an outsider, as evidenced by his losing 2 of the 4 suburban counties in 2010.

    One could make the argument that without Specter’s 60th vote, Obama’s legislative agenda would have been curtailed enough so that the outrage which launched the Tea Party movement would not have been significant. It is the old frog in a boiling pot story.

BannedbytheGuardian | December 31, 2011 at 2:53 am

I pledge allsegane to da flag anna United States of America.
And to da republic fer which it stands.
One nation under Gawd
Indivisible wit liberty and jestice
fer alls.

Ask not wah yinzes country can do fer you n’at.

Ask wah yinz can do fer yinxes country.

I did it for you Rick. God is my witness.

[…] Attacks on Rick Santorum begin.  Remember the Arlen Specter endorsement? […]

[…] Not surprising, I guess, coming from the guy whose bright idea to endorse Arlen Specter in 2004 gave us ObamaCare. […]

[…] Not surprising, I guess, coming from the guy whose bright idea to endorse Arlen Specter in 2004 gave us ObamaCare. […]

[…] Not surprising, I guess, coming from the guy whose bright idea to endorse Arlen Specter in 2004 gave us ObamaCare. […]

[…] William A. Jacobson points out just how much this really affected the nation when he illustrates that “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.” […]