(CNSNews.com) - There ought to be a “rebellion” and an “uprising” against right-wing elements that are trying to purify the Republican Party, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said Tuesday, shortly after he announced he would leave the Grand Old Party to become a Democrat.
Specter said Republicans "far to the right" in the party, who are more worried about ideology than winning elections, have brought about one costly defeat after another for the GOP, including the tabling of 34 of President Bush’s nominees for federal judgeships. Those defeats were the result of the right’s opposition to moderates in the party, such as himself, said Specter.
“They [Republicans on far right] don’t make any bones about their willingness to lose the general election if they can purify the party,” Specter said at his Tuesday press conference. “I don’t understand it, but that’s what they say.”
“And for the people who are Republicans to sit by and allow them to continue to dominate the party … there ought to be a rebellion,” he said. “There ought to be an uprising.”
Specter was referring to an adviser to Pat Toomey, the former president of the conservative Club for Growth, who announced on Apr. 15 that he would launch a primary challenge against Specter in 2010.
Specter suggested on Tuesday that his reason for switching parties was in part based on polls that indicated he was unlikely to survive Toomey’s primary challenge.
In making his argument, Specter cited several cases where conservative elements of the GOP opposed moderate Republicans and either beat them in the primary and then lost the general election, or so weakened the candidate in the primary that he could not go on to defeat the Democrat in the general election.
In 2006, moderate former-Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-R.I.) was weakened in a primary challenge by a conservative Republican who was supported by the Club for Growth, according to Specter. Chaffee was then defeated in the general election, which [with two independents caucusing with Democrats] changed the balance of the Senate, and cost Republicans the confirmation of 34 of President Bush’s federal judgeship nominees, said Specter.
“The Club for Growth challenged Lincoln Chafee,” said Specter. “They made him spend all his money in the primary and he lost the general. Had Lincoln Chafee been elected in 2006, the Republicans would have controlled the Senate in 2007 and 2008 and I would have been chairman of the committee.”
Until Tuesday, Specter was the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which reports federal judgeship nominations to the floor, and is highly influential in the confirmation process.
“President Bush nominated 13 circuit judges, but they were all left on the table for President Obama,” said Specter. “President Bush nominated 21 district court judges and they were all left on the table for Obama.”
“They beat Chafee and cost of us Republican control of the Senate and 34 federal judges,” said Specter.
In 2007, Chafee quit the Republican Party to become an independent and supported the candidacy of President Barack Obama in 2008.