That’s right, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is actually suggesting that Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party is evidence of a coming Republican sweep in 2010.
At first I wondered if Inhofe simply didn’t understand the way primaries work in Pennsylvania, but it turns out that Oklahoma has a closed primary system too, in which voters register and primary by party. The ultra-conservative Pat Toomey’s 20-point lead over Specter in recent polls isn’t due to the rejection of Specter’s relatively moderate stance by a majority of Pennsylvania voters, or even by a majority of Pennsylvania’s traditionally Republican voters. Rather, like a vast inland sea, Pennsylvania’s Republican Party has been steadily evaporating away, leaving behind the denser, brackish waters in which only political creatures like Toomey can survive. Recently, over 200,000 Pennsylvanians have changed their registration from R to D, and that is the main reason why Specter has followed suit.
So if Inhofe’s optimism isn’t due to a misunderstanding over Pennsylvania’s primary system, I can only assume it a symptom of ideological myopia bordering on solipsism. Inhofe’s “first visible evidence” of a GOP comeback is, of course, evidence of the exact opposite, and his party’s utter inability to recognize their collapse for what it is, suggests that it will be some time before such a comeback is even remotely possible.
I suppose that would be more reassuring to Democrats like me if we actually felt reassured that our party’s leaders were prepared to exploit the opportunities presented by the Republicans pathological and precipitous decline.