Would Pat Toomey hurt the Pennsylvania GOP at the top of the ticket in Pennsylvania? It does matter because races for governor and for the state legislature will determine what redistricting looks like after the 2010 Census.
Many commentators simply assume that Toomey will be a hindrance — conservatives cannot win elections, after all — but there is little reason to make such an assumption. And there is also a very good case to be made for the other side. Toomey’s smarts and understanding of policy, and his ability to avoid unhinged rhetoric helped him hold down a Congressional District that went solidly for Al Gore in 2000 and for John Kerry in 2004. Provided that Specter manages to get the nomination, a Toomey (R) versus Specter (D) general election in a low-turnout midterm could be good for the GOP. What Republican wouldn’t want to pit skeptical Democratic voters for Specter against extremely motivated Republicans, out for revenge and wishing they’d been there for Toomey in 2004?
Would Specter win over the state’s many conservative Democrats, who have already been voting against him happily for years? It’s not as though Arlen Specter performs particularly well in general elections. He got a free pass in 1998, but in 1992 he managed 49 against a serious opponent. He received only 52 percent in 2004 against former Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D), a not-so-serious opponent whom he outspent four-to-one. And he had the support of organized labor in that race. I don’t think they’ll be putting up yard signs for Specter (like the one above, from 2004) this time.