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April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter Joins the Democrats

In a surprise move, Arlen Specter, the long-time Republican Senator from Pennsylvania defected to the Democratic Party.

Specter says that this move has been coming as the Republican Party has become more conservative recent years has put his political philosophy more in line with the Democrats.

He also faced potential trouble winning re-election as a Republican in 2010 in Pennsylvania against a primary election challenge from a former GOP congressman, Pat Toomey, who led by double digits in recent polls.

The Democrats now have the potential for 60 votes in the U.S. Senate if Al Franken is seated in Minnesota.

With 60 votes, Democrats will be able to push their agenda (and President Obama’s agenda) through Congress without any votes from Republicans.


“One item that I want to emphasize, that I will not be changing my own personal independence or my own votes to individual issues. I will not be an automatic 60th vote.” Senator Arlen Specter, D-PA.

“This is a Pennsylvania story about his inability, according to his pollster, to be re-nominated by the Republican Party or to be elected as an independent, and so he made a totally political decision.” Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY., Senate minority leader

“This was a case where Arlen Specter is a survivor. He’s a political animal. He cares about winning, whether it’s on the legislative issues, confirmation issues, or in this case, electoral issues.” Stu Rothenberg, The Rothenberg Political Report

Warm Up Questions

1. What does the Republican Party stand for? What does the Democratic Party stand for?

2. Who are the senators from your state? Which party do they belong to?

3. Why would a politician switch parties?

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Senator Specter switched parties?

2. Amy Walter said that in Pennsylvania Democrats cannot vote in Republican primaries and vice versa, does this make sense to you? Do you think this is a good idea? Support your idea with examples.

3. How important is party affiliation?

4. If one of your elected officials switched parties would you still vote for him or her?

5. Do you think that Specter can win as a Democrat?

Additional Resources

Read this trasncript

Arlen Specters Senate page

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