Sunday, November 30, 2008

Matthews vs. Toomey?

It's not a new idea, but the news and blogs are all musing over the potential that uber-talking head Chris Matthews might run for senate against Arlen Specter. I bet he is not trying to decide whether to run against Specter, but whether Specter himself is the Republican nomineee. I had wondered a bit how the presidential race had altered intra-party politics in Pennsylvania. All the new registrations, and party switching has to have some effect, but how much and to what effect. I was not alone in that thought. The LA Times has a look at the prospects for the Pennsylvania senate seat and in particular Arlen's prospects given that Toomey came within just a couple percentage points of beating him in the primary in 2004. If as Toomey implies in that article that Obama support in Pennsylvania essentially pulled moderate Republicans out out of their Republican registration, what is left is a more conservative electorate for the closed Republican primaries coming up. Does that mean that the Democratic primary in the state is pulled more conservative as well? That is a tougher call given that for the D's the impact was not as much from party-switchers as new registrants. So many of the new registrations went D, however as everyone seems to agree a lot of those new registrations were students or younger voters who will likely not even be in the state the next time around. So the party-switchers who I am guessing are older (at least older than students) voters are more likely to stick around until the next election.

So I say Matthews and other D's for that matter are all trying to gauge whether Toomey or another strong R is going to jump into the race. A large part of the senate-hopeful crowd (on both sides) would never run against Specter, but would jump at the chance to run against most anybody else. But the signals from Toomey have been minimal, let alone any glimmer from a Ridge, Schweiker or Scranton. Smart for each side to keep quiet. Both anti-arlen camps on either side are playing a game of chicken with each other. Both would prefer the more extreme opponent on the other side to their opponent yet announcing their own races could have the effect of scaring out the opposites then want. All of which explains the continued success of Arlen Specter at winning the most bipolar of states. As I said before, figure out how a state can vote by large margins for Al Gore and Rick Santorum in the same election as happened in 2000 and you will have a career in Pennsylvania politics. It might be changing, but those types of ticket splitters have been the deciding voters here for a long time.

Is the Pennsylvania middle changing? I am not sure it makes sense to even call it the middle, but I duuno? Obama won PA by large measure, but Republican Tom Corbett won re-election as well. That may not be the best analogy but still. If not decided by the middle, as my bubble chart of the election last month shows pretty clearly, it will be decided by Philadelphia. Former Philadelphia US Attorney Arlen always does pretty well for a R in Philadelphia... and if he does not win Philadelphia proper, he generally wins the environs which went solidly Obama last month. Specter actually won 63 of 67 counties in 2004, though that was down from 65/67 counties in 1998, though Yeakel won 16 counties in 1992. Who would capture that vote in a race without him as a choice?

What is not really talked about yet... if it turns out this registration switch has affected the intra-party dynamics of Pennsylvania's primaries; it's not just what it means for the statewide races, but what impact it might that have on races down the ticket?


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