Q: What are the three things every politician cares about?
A: Re-election, re-election, and re-election.
And Sen. Arlen Specter is no different – which is why he suddenly cares enough about the economy to oppose the abolition of secret ballots in union elections – publicly reversing a past decision to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which removes the freedom of choice from workers’ unionization elections.
Pennsylvania Republicans might have handed him a primary loss in 2004, if President George W. Bush hadn’t hit the campaign trail for him. Then-Congressman Pat Toomey went the distance in that first Rocky-vs.-Apollo match-up; as a Philly native, Specter doesn’t need to be reminded of what happened to Apollo in the sequel. And if he did, a 41-27 deficit in recent polls of GOP primary voters should do the trick.
In the end, it may be too little too late from Specter – one vote, even on a critical issue like forced unionization, won’t convince conservative Pennsylvanians he’s their man. A 2004 Toomey supporter and campaign volunteer recently pointed out that Specter is even more vulnerable than in 2004, noting that many moderates changed their registration to vote in the contentious Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Specter finds himself facing a smaller, more conservative electorate for this go-around – so, he changed his mind.
Some are warning that without labor’s support, Specter is a sitting duck for his general election, too. That may be true, but not if he’s careful – and he need only look to the Yuengling brewery in his own backyard for an example of how simple economic facts can make union support evaporate.