Arlen Specter has a problem

ARLEN SPECTER HAS A PROBLEM…. A new poll in Pennsylvania found that 66% of Republicans in the state want to see Arlen Specter (R) replaced in the Senate. Only 29% of these GOP voters said they support Specter’s re-election.

For Specter, it gets worse. In January, Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, who very nearly defeated Specter in a Republican primary in 2004, said he would not seek a re-match in 2010. Yesterday, Toomey said he’s reconsidering that decision, and may run after all.

“As this disastrous recession worsens, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and national economy,” Toomey said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, the recent extraordinary response of the federal government – more corporate bailouts, unprecedented spending and debt, higher taxes – is likely to make things worse. I think we are on a dangerously wrong path. Pennsylvanians want a US Senator focused on real and sustainable job creation that gets our economy growing again. That is why I am considering becoming a candidate for the US Senate.” […]

Toomey first suggested that he is again reconsidering a primary run against Specter on Monday morning on WAEB, a local Pennsylvania radio station. A primary challenge, he reportedly said, is “now back on the table.”

To put it mildly, Specter is in a tough spot. He’s a relatively moderate Republican in a Democratic state, which strongly supported Barack Obama last year. He’s also part of a Pennsylvania Republican Party dominated by the far-right, which has little patience for his willingness to work with the Democratic majority. Specter is almost certain to face a tough primary, and if he ekes out another win, he’ll face a much tougher Democratic challenge than he’s accustomed to. (Pennsylvania Dems would love to go up against Toomey or someone else from the right-wing of the party, who would be easier to defeat in a general election.)

Complicating matters further, Specter will probably have to vote sometime soon on the Employee Free Choice Act. If he votes for it — Specter has backed the bill before — the right will go completely berserk and his chances of winning the primary will diminish considerably. If Specter reverses course and opposes EFCA, Pennsylvania’s strong union forces will rally heavily against him, making a general election win less likely.

Given all of this, Matt Yglesias has a radical suggestion: “[T]he obvious solution would be to stick to his guns on EFCA and follow up his support for the stimulus by switching parties and, like Jim Jeffords, reposition ideologically somewhat. In other words, stop being a vulnerable moderate Republican and become a plain-vanilla Democrat with a safe seat.”

It strikes me as an unlikely scenario, but it may be Specter’s best bet.