Specter has to be counted the favorite to win the fall election. But it remains to be seen how many of Toomey’s supporters turn out for Specter this fall. The answer will depend on Specter’s own behavior in the next few months. He moved right for the primary–although I was always surprised at how much more room he left for Toomey–and will now presumably want to move left. He will have to be subtle about it if he doesn’t want to have a problem with conservative turnout.
Will conservatives punish Bush and Santorum? The election-night result is the one most calculated to cause them trouble with conservatives. If Toomey had been crushed in a landslide, they would have accepted what Bush and Santorum had done. If he had won, they would not have cared. But since he lost so very narrowly, they know that Bush and Santorum are directly responsible for the result. Santorum has time to recover before he is up for re-election in 2006, but this episode may limit his potential as a conservative standard-bearer. Bush will probably be able to get most conservatives to vote for him this fall, but his task is a little harder after last night.