Dave Weigel notes that Senator Jon Cornyn (R-TX), in charge of helping GOP Senate candidates, is being surprisingly friendly with former Rep. Pat Toomey who’s mounting a challenge-from-the-right to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). Dave notes that “it becomes much, much harder to hold the seat if Specter loses.”
This can’t be understated. Specter would be basically unbeatable. Toomey, by contrast, could win depending on whether or not a strong candidate emerges against him. But you wouldn’t really bet on it. Pennsylvania’s not the bluest state in the nation, but there’s little evidence that an orthodox conservative can beat an orthodox progressive in a statewide race. Obama beat McCain by ten points, Kerry beat Bush by two and a half, Gote beat Bush by four, Clinton beat Dole by ten, and Clinton beat Bush by nine. Ed Rendell’s been elected governor twice, and his Republican predecessor was, like Specter, a moderate.
This is all reminiscent of the 2008 Virginia Senate race, which I think never got enough attention. You had a longstanding conservative state that had been trending blue. And you had a very strong Democratic candidate in Mark Warner. And you had one and only one possible Republican nominee who would have stood a chance to beat Warner in moderate Representative Tom Davis. But not only did the Virginia GOP decline to nominate Davis, they actually changed the rules by which the nominee is picked to stack the deck against Davis. The result was a totally noncompetitive senate race. The Republicans just fronted the Democrats a Republican-held Senate seat. And Davis decided to retire, thus leaving his House seat open to be nabbed by a Democrat as well. It was staggeringly self-defeating move. And now they’re set to do it again in Pennsylvania
It seems a bit like overconfidence, but how could a movement that’s clearly on the ropes be feeling overconfident.