DINO

DINO…. When Sen. Arlen Specter announced that he’s switching parties, there were press reports indicating that he told President Obama, “I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.”

On “Meet the Press” this morning, David Gregory asked about health care, with this quote in mind. Specter’s response was important.

GREGORY: It was reported this week that when you met with the president, you said, “I will be a loyal democrat. I support your agenda.” Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda, and that’s health care. Would you support health care reform that puts up a government run public plan to compete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company?

SPECTER: No. And you misquote me, David. I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass health care with 51 votes, which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose closure on key issues…. I did not say I am a loyal Democrat.

It’s quite a start for Specter’s career in Democratic politics, isn’t it? In the four whole days he’s been a Democrat, Specter has voted against the Democratic budget, rejected a Democratic measure to help prevent mortgage foreclosures and preserve home values, announced his opposition to the president’s OLC nominee, and this morning rejected a key centerpiece of the Democratic health care plan.

For years, Republicans criticized Specter as a RINO — Republican In Name Only. As is turns out, at this point, Specter appears intent on literally being nothing more than a DINO — Democrat In Name Only. Specter doesn’t want to do any of the actual work involved in being a valuable member of his new team, preferring to vote exactly as he used to, only now with a different letter after his name in parentheses.

I suspect party leaders, in DC and Pennsylvania, want to rally behind Specter because a) they feel like he’s very likely to win next year as the Democratic nominee; and b) there’s a near-automatic tendency to support a Democratic incumbent seeking re-election, even if he/she has been a Democratic incumbent for a matter of days.

But the strategy appears deeply flawed. Obama won Pennsylvania by double digits last year. Casey crushed Santorum in ’06 by 18 points. There are real Democrats who can not only win a Senate race next year, but would like to run. For the party to push them away is, under the circumstances, an avoidable mistake.

Specter wants Democratic votes, but doesn’t want to earn them. It’s a dynamic that practically begs for a primary.