Specter calls for "rebellion" against conservatives in GOP

The Pennsylvania senator attacks Republicans who've mounted challenges from the right against members of their own party.

Published April 28, 2009 7:05PM (EDT)

Make no mistake -- Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., is decidedly unhappy with the conservative members of his former party who pushed him in to becoming a Democrat. Specter made that very clear in a press conference at which he discussed his decision on Tuesday, striking out at "the far-right" and making the case that they have hurt the Republican Party at the polls.

In doing so, Specter -- without actually naming the man he would have faced in a GOP primary, former Rep. Pat Toomey -- made very explicit reference to him, repeatedly slamming the Club for Growth, a conservative organization Toomey headed until he stepped down recently in order to run against the incumbent.

"Republicans didn't rally to Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland, who was beaten by the Club for Growth and the far-right, and we lost the general election. Republicans didn't rally to the banner of Joe Schwartz in Michigan, and he was beaten by a conservative and the Club for Growth, and they lost the general election. Republicans didn't rally to Heather Wilson in New Mexico last year, and she was beaten in the primary and [the GOP lost in the general election," Specter said, continuing:

The Club for Growth challenged Linc Chafee. Remember Linc Chafee? They made him spend all his money in the primary and he lost the general. Had Linc Chafee been elected in 2006, the Republicans would have controlled the Senate in 2007 and 2008 and I would have been chairman of a committee. President Bush nominated 13 circuit judges -- they were all left on the table for President Obama. President Bush nominated 21 district court judges, and they were all left on the table for President Obama...

One of my opponent's principal advisors said, 'We don't care about Stage Two -- Stage One, we want to beat Arlen Specter. We'll worry about Stage Two later.' They don't make any bones about their willingness to lose the general election if they can purify the party. I don't understand it, but that's what they say. To sit by and allow them to continue to dominate the party after they beat Chafee, cost us Republican control of the Senate and cost us 34 federal judges, there ought to be a rebellion, there ought to be an uprising.

Separately, new Club for Growth President Chris Chocola has issued a statement responding to Specter's decision. "Senator Specter has confirmed what we already knew -- he’s a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts, and less economic freedom," Chocola said. “The Club for Growth PAC enthusiastically endorsed Pat Toomey for Senate in Pennsylvania when Specter was pretending to be a Republican. Club members will be even more committed to Toomey’s candidacy now that Specter has revealed his true identity.”

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Arlen Specter D-pa.