*Mulling Specter’s future

MULLING SPECTER’S FUTURE…. The Hill reported yesterday on Sen. Arlen Specter’s precarious future, and whether the Pennsylvania Republican would be better off giving up on the GOP altogether.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) does not have the fall-back option of running as an independent should he lose his 2010 primary election, giving the senior lawmaker strong incentive to abandon his party this year. […]

“I think he has a lot of problems,” said Terry Madonna, a professor of political science at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. “I think this is the test of lifetime.”

Six years ago, Specter eked out a narrow win over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in a GOP primary. Since then, the Pennsylvania Republican Party has grown more conservative — moderates have left the party in droves — and far-right enmity for Specter has grown more intense.

Making matters worse for Specter, the Republican primary is “closed” — independents and Democrats won’t be able to give the senator a boost in his primary fight.

Could Specter lose to Toomey and then pull a Lieberman, running in the general election as an independent? No, Pennsylvania election law prohibits it. If Specter loses the primary, he’s done.

All of this, The Hill noted, “puts strong pressure on Specter to contemplate his future as a Republican.”

To be sure, I think Specter’s prospects would be greatly improved if he left his party and became a Democrat. But even that avenue has roadblocks. For one thing, there’s no love lost between Specter and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. For another, there are a lot of credible, reliable Democrats getting ready to run for the Senate, and if Specter made the jump, he’d have a tough time in the Democratic primary, too.

Incidentally, there’s the small matter of Specter’s unwillingness to actually join the Democratic Party. The guy’s an old-school Republican, and I suspect he’ll take his chances against Toomey.

Harry Reid could try to put together some kind of package — seniority, a committee chairmanship, etc. — but I don’t see it coming together. The Democratic focus right now should be on fielding the strongest candidate possible to take on the Republican, all the while hoping it’s Toomey, who would be much easier to defeat in a statewide race.