Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When in Rome ...

Senator Arlen Specter, Democrat of Pennsylvania, seems to be pursuing his own version of the old saying, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." Except for him it's, "when on the Democratic side of the aisle, do as the Democrats do."

Throughout the health care debate in the Senate, Specter has been strongly pushing the so-called "public option", a government-run health insurer that would, depending on whose narrative you believe, either compete with, or push out of business, private-sector insurers.

Specter has emailed a statement that reads in part:

It is not the bill that I would have preferred and there is an oppuntunity [sic] to improve it in conference. I would like to see a strong, robust public option.

If the Democrats try to resurrect the public option during their conference with the House that will reconcile differences between the bills passed by the two houses, they would presumably renew their battles with Senators Lieberman, Nelson and Lincoln.

My guess is that Specter has no such expectation, and he is merely throwing red meat to the Democratic primary electorate here in Pennsylvania, that will decide between Specter and Representative Joe Sestak for their Senate nomination next year.

That's not particularly surprising, but it is a different path for Specter, who consistently hugged the political middle ground in his five Senate candidacies on the Republican ticket. If he wins the primary, he will probably tack back toward the center in the general election campaign. But I expect him to have trouble with voters on the center-right, such as this writer, who have supported him in the past.

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