From my blog to his ears
A few days ago I tussled with some fellow bloggers over whether Democrats should support Bob Casey Jr., an anti-abortion Democrat, over Rick Santorum in the senatorial election. I agree that a vigorous primary battle is not necessarily a bad thing for the party, so I'm not thrilled that the powers-that-be are trying to clear the field for Casey. But I disagree that party activists should sit on their hands if Casey is the nominee, simply based on his conservative abortion views.
E. J. Dionne illustrates this point in the Washington Post. He notes that Republicans are far more pragmatic on this issue, and that's paid dividents for them:
...the Republican Party has been utterly realistic, indeed ruthless, in engineering the nomination of pro-choice candidates if they had the better chance of winning. The amazing thing is that some of the staunchest opponents of abortion went right along and sidetracked allies if that was what victory required.
The best example: last year's Republican primary in Pennsylvania between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Pat Toomey. Specter is pro-choice, Toomey pro-life. Guess who campaigned hard for Specter, following the dictates of Bush and the party establishment? None other than Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's other Republican senator and one of the most resolute opponents of abortion in Congress. Santorum turned his back on his fellow pro-lifer because Specter, he said, was "an important ally to the president." Specter won the primary and held the seat for the GOP.
Now, Specter hasn't exactly been a good GOP soldier since his re-election; even after he had to kiss some serious butt to get the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he's still indicated that he might seek compromise with Democrats over judicial nominees. But before his re-election, when he knew he would need the president's help, he dutifully supported the president's agenda.
As Democrats head into the 2006 election season, it's important to remember that during the last two mid-terms (1998 and 2002) the party in the White House defied historical precedent by picking up seats. If that happens again, the Democrats will be in trouble:
"If we lose three seats," (Sen. Charles) Schumer said, "many of the things we've cherished and valued over the last 50 years would go out the window."