Opinion

Working title for Specter’s new book? ‘Not really representative of Pennsylvania’

Kipp Lanham Contributor

Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said Monday that he plans to write another book. It seems every political candidate these days who aspires for national office comes out with a book.

Republican Pat Toomey, one of Specter’s opponents for his Senate seat, released a book last year, “The Road to Prosperity: How to Grow Our Economy and Revive the American Dream.” Will Joe Sestak, Specter’s Democratic opponent in the May primary, come out with a book?

Specter hinted that he has some “special insights” from having worked in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses. What could those insights be? Enough for a book to further reposition himself politically in the eye’s of Pennsylvania voters? Although I am not his editor or publisher, I would like to suggest the book that Specter should write: another memoir, “Not Really Representative of Pennsylvania.”

What a whirlwind it has been for Specter since 2000 when he penned “Passion for Truth,” his first memoir. Specter continued to vote among the small number of Republicans who sided with Senate Democrats on votes including the federal tobacco lawsuit in July 2000, on overtime regulations in 2003 and 2005, and the stimulus package in 2008. Specter barely defeated Toomey 51 percent-49 percent in a Republican primary for his party’s nomination for Senate in 2004. During his time as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter also sought favorable conditions for Democrats regarding the filibuster of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. In 2005 and 2008, Specter battled Hodgkin’s disease. In his second memoir, Specter can finally dish in detail what caused him to create a political firestorm in April 2009 leading up to his Senate re-election bid in November 2010.

Pennsylvania voters are eager to hear all the juicy tidbits of Specter’s former Republican life and crossover to the Democratic Party. He can now correct all the naysayers about why he left the Republican Party for his newfound friends in the Democratic Party, particularly President Barack Obama’s ‘fiery’ speech and Vice President Joe Biden’s fundraising. He can also elaborate on what he learned from having been in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses, which will benefit voters. Is it his seniority or experience? What made the Democratic leadership under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi so effective? How powerful were the filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes Specter gave Democrats in the Senate in 2009?

Specter can also reflect upon his Senate race against fellow Democrat Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey. He can describe to readers whether Toomey drove him to become a Democrat rather than political expediency ahead of a re-election campaign. Specter switched from a Democrat to Republican previously in 1965 to run for district attorney in Philadelphia. Then, Specter can talk about his love-hate relationship with polls. He can remark upon his public record and extol his inconsistent political positions as to whether or not they pushed him across party lines and up and down in approval numbers among Pennsylvania voters. He can further affirm why he supported unpopular legislation, including the stimulus package and health care reform, at the Pennsylvania taxpayer’s expense.

Will the second Specter memoir reveal any regrets? Did April 2009 look better than May 2010? Were those rowdy town halls in 2009 not really representative of America?

However, voters are already deciding—with or without another book—who is representative of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate. According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, 52 percent of Pennsylvanians polled said Specter did not deserve to be re-elected. USA Today reported that an incumbent’s poll percentage around 50 percent is a ‘bad sign.’ The approval ratings were even worse – 48 percent approved and 45 percent disapproved of Specter’s work in Congress. Specter and Sestak are expected to have an expensive primary in May to secure the Democratic nomination. With November still eight months off, Pat Toomey has plenty of time to impress upon the 65 percent of voters who were unfamiliar with him. The November election might be the inverse of the 2004 Republican primary.

Kipp Lanham is a political communications strategist who has worked on Capitol Hill and K Street as an intern and communications professional. Kipp has been published in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and The Hill.  Kipp graduated from American University’s School of Communication with a M.A. in Public Communication.