November 26, 2004

Since You Asked...

Tim Carney writes in the comments below:

I wonder what your after-the-fact assessment of Bush & Santorum's saving Specter in April is now, that Arlen didn't help Bush a lick, and we didn't need him for a GOP majority anyway.
Let me return to what I wrote at the time. Regarding the Senate majority:
While it's true that Democrats, on balance, face tougher Senate challenges this year, an upset is not impossible, and a Specter-chaired Judiciary certainly couldn't be any worse than one dominated by the likes of Patrick Leahy and Ted Kennedy. But granted, this is not the most likely scenario.
I was much more worried about the effect on the presidential race. It wasn't so much that I thought Specter would help (though I wasn't sure he wouldn't help, and I certainly didn't foresee those Kerry/Specter signs), as I was concerned that Toomey might hurt:
Toomey may excite conservatives, but he's also likely to galvanize liberals. Toomey could very well become a figure that liberals successfully define as an extremist, and serve as a tool for scaring moderates. A humdrum Senate race, where Specter remains the frontrunner for months, keeps the focus on Bush, who (polls show) can appeal to Pennsylvania moderates on his own terms.
Is that moot now that we know that Bush won without Pennsylvania? Not necessarily; many campaign resources are fungible, so changing the dynamics in Pennsylvania would also change the dynamics elsewhere. I have no idea what the fallout might have been; maybe it would have been a wash, maybe Kerry would have won Ohio, maybe Bush would have won by an even greater margin. The bottom line is that the prospect of a Toomey candidacy was high-risk/high-reward, whereas backing Specter was low-risk/low-reward. If I'm right that Specter's on a short leash now, then he turned out to be not so low-reward as one might have thought. So I have to conclude that Bush and Santorum's risk-aversion in the spring remains just as defensible as it was at the time, if not more so.

Posted by John Tabin at November 26, 2004 02:25 AM
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