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Santorum Beats Conservatives
Toomey lost to the Republican party, president and all.


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Pat Toomey’s campaign was a model of hard work and honesty, but he ended it with a lie. In his concession speech before a tearful crowd in the Holiday Inn, Toomey began by speaking of the ideas of freedom, limited government, and traditional values. “These ideas,” he said, “are at the heart of the Republican party. These ideas are what the Republican party is about.”

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If the Republican party had these ideas at its core, Pat Toomey would be the nominee for U.S. Senate.

That the GOP is at essence a conservative institution is a common misperception, one shared by Lehigh Valley farmer Arland Schantz. Schantz is kept busy working his farm not far from Toomey’s hometown of Zionsville, but he took time off Monday night to attend a Toomey rally. Schantz is a conservative and a free trader, and he’s sick of having a Republican senator who “acts like a Democrat” as he puts it.

Schantz is an ardent Bush supporter and backer of Senator Rick Santorum. I asked Schantz about Santorum’s and Bush’s endorsement of Specter, and Schantz said it was political necessity. “They have to endorse the incumbent,” he said, echoing the explanation of everyone else in that room.

Then Schantz winked and went on about Bush and Santorum. “We know what they really want, deep down inside.” Schantz was one of a handful of Toomey backers who sincerely believed that Santorum on Tuesday after campaigning for Specter was going to close the curtain behind him in the election booth and pull the lever for Toomey. Similarly, these Toomey fans said Bush needs Toomey in the Senate to advance his agenda.

As I spoke with Schantz, president of “Farmers for Toomey,” farmers in central Pennsylvania were receiving automated phone calls from the Specter campaign. The calls had the voice of President Bush, endorsing Specter.

Canvassing voters on Tuesday leaving polling places in Lower Paxton Township and Newberry Township, almost all of the Specter voters cited Santorum’s and Bush’s endorsements as the reason for their votes.

One dentist in Lower Paxton calls himself a conservative and a pro-lifer, but Bush’s relentless campaigning made the dentist think Bush needed Specter if he was going to win the November election. This reasoning is faulty, but local media parroted it, and it pervaded the state enough to push Specter over the top.

Conservatives such as Schantz believe Bush and Santorum backed Specter reluctantly. But this ignores the facts. Bush visited Pennsylvania with Specter many times, endorsing Specter not only for reelection, but also for Judiciary chairman. Bush came to Pittsburgh again eight days ago for a fundraiser and said, “I’m here to say it as plainly as I can: Arlen Specter is the right man for the Senate.”

There can be no doubt about it: Bush and Santorum won this election for Arlen Specter, and that is exactly what they meant to do.

The question is why?

Contrary to the common explanation, this move by Bush and Santorum was not part of long-term, complex pragmatic move to advance the conservative cause. It was, however, enlightened self-interest.

This race had been billed as a battle between the conservatives and the liberals within the Republican party. That characterization ignores the glaring facts of Santorum and Bush.

This was instead a battle between the establishment and the grassroots. Local media described Specter defending the Keystone GOP’s tradition as a moderate Republican state. That more describes the leaders of the party in Harrisburg than it does the voters throughout that state’s 67 counties.

To hold on to power, the party heads had to scare the conservatives throughout the state. A vote for Toomey, they said, is not only a vote for Joe Hoeffel and thus for Tom Daschle, it is also a vote for John Kerry. These lines are lies, but with that much supposedly on the line, it’s no wonder so many conservatives held their noses and voted for Specter.

And one State Republican Committee candidate described her vote for the incumbent exactly that way, with her head turned away and her fingers pinching her nose.

Toomey’s campaign had legions of motivated young conservatives volunteering–the college Republicans from schools throughout the state, and young Capitol Hill staffers up from Washington, D.C.

But Arlen Specter had something far more powerful on his side. He had the machine on working for him. He was able to pour $5 million into a get-out-the-vote effort in the final 72 hours, and drive up turnout in the moderate white-bread suburbs of Montgomery County. Specter had George Soros and well-heeled Main Street Republicans teaming up with the National Republican Senatorial Committee for him at the last minute.

The party was not trying to advance Specter’s liberal policies. The party was doing what the party exists to do: protect its own. Throwing Bob Smith overboard in 2002 was easy. Smith had done something far worse than sink a GOP judicial nominee, derail a tax cut, or vote to fund abortion. Smith had left the party for a few weeks.

Tom Fleig of Harrisburg voted for Pat Toomey Tuesday. He told me he did it “to send President Bush a message.” The Medicare Prescription Drug Entitlement is a costly fraud. Don’t think of appointing another Anthony Kennedy to the bench. Forget about amnesty.

That’s not a message Bush wanted to hear. Nor is it one Rick Santorum, the Senate Republican Conference head, wants to deal with. Now they don’t have to worry about Pat Toomey rocking the boat for the next six months–or the next six years.

But in his conscience, Rick Santorum has a new burden to bear. For every vote Specter casts to keep abortion legal, for every dollar Specter adds to a spending bill or subtracts from a tax cut, Americans can blame Santorum.

Pat Toomey didn’t lose to liberal Arlen Specter. Toomey lost to the entire Republican party. That Republican victory was at the cost of the conservative cause.

Timothy P. Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.



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