Republican Party: Arlen Specter
No. 1 Arlen Specter (Senator): Republican Party
Moderate 29-year Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter shocked his (former) Republican colleagues and delighted Democrats on April 28 when he announced he would switch parties. It was a quit so big that health care reform passed the Senate when Democrats leveraged the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority they now enjoy. Fellow Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine warned that the GOP was in denial: “I think that we as a party and our leaders have to recognize the reality of the situation that we’re facing when we’ve lost 13 Senate seats [and] more than 50 House seats in the last two elections,” she said. Specter’s switch was the subject of years of discussions between him and then Senator Joseph Biden on their regular Amtrak rides home (Specter to Philadelphia and Biden to Delaware). In his announcement, Specter noted that in 2008 “more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats.”1 Specter’s re-election is far from certain, and the Democrats will likely have motivated opposition, but the seismic impact on politics is now undeniable.