Kean calls Specter switch a ‘tragedy’ for GOP

Former Gov. Tom Kean called U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Penn.) decision this week to change his party affiliation from Republican

Former Gov. Tom Kean called U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Penn.) decision this week to change his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat a political "tragedy" for both the country and the Republican Party, which he said is becoming too ideologically narrow to retake a congressional majority.

"I think his decision to switch is a tragedy in a number of ways," said Kean.

Specter, a moderate who was elected to the Senate in 1980 – one year before Kean, a fellow moderate Republican, won the New Jersey gubernatorial election — was facing what looked to be an uphill primary battle against conservative former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey before he announced his party switch on Tuesday.

If Democrat Al Franken ever overcomes former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's legal appeals in Minnesota, then, combined with Specter's switch, Democrats will have the 60 votes necessary to achieve cloture – at least on paper. Kean said that it's dangerous when either party reaches a filibuster-ending majority.

"I think it's never good politically for one party to get to the sixty number in the Senate. What happens is they get a little uppity and arrogant and overreach, usually," Kean said.

"It's not good for the country, party or anyone else. Our system is not built to have that kind of majority."

Kean did not fault Specter for making the switch. He has had a good relationship with the Senator, relying on his help when he chaired the 9/11 commission and even donating $500 to his 1998 reelection campaign – something he does not often do for out-of-state candidates (one of the few non-New Jersey recipients of Kean's contributions has been Sen. Susan Collins [R-ME] who, like Specter, took heat from conservatives for voting for President Obama's stimulus bill).

"[Specter] knows what he believes in. He's a bit of a maverick and the Senate needs mavericks," said Kean.

But Kean said that the switch is a "very bad sign in the Republican Party," which he believes will continue to find itself in the political wilderness if it forces candidates to adhere to a strict conservative ideology.

"What it means is it's becoming more and more narrow, more and more regionally based, more and more ideologically pure, and a party like that can never be the governing party in the country," he said.

While Kean has never met Toomey, based on what he's read about him, he thinks he is not an ideal statewide candidate in Pennsylvania.

"If he's as ideological as he's been painted, he's not going to be elected in Pennsylvania," he said.

Back in New Jersey, Kean made headlines earlier this year by endorsing former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie for Governor during the Republican primary. Now, Christie appears to be in a closer-than-anticipated battle against conservative former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.

Kean, who has lost Republican primaries before but never a general election, said that he hopes Republican voters will think about which candidate the best chance of beating Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in November has.

‘The polls all show [Christie] would be the best general election candidate…. I'd hope the Republican Party takes that into consideration," he said.

Although Kean did not call Christie a moderate, Lonegan said that Kean's support means as much.

"He only endorses these liberal-moderate candidates. That's his whole agenda," said Lonegan, who added that he believes conservatives are watching this race for the downfall of the "Arlen Specter/Chris Christie/Susan Collins model of big government Republicanism."

 

  Kean calls Specter switch a ‘tragedy’ for GOP