Elena Kagan’s nomination couldn’t come at a worse time for Arlen Specter. Unlike his fellow Democrats, he’s been unable to fawn over President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, or push Republicans to grant her swift confirmation. That’s because, just last year, Specter voted against confirming Kagan as Solicitor General…when he was a member of the GOP.
“I voted against her for Solicitor General because she wouldn’t answer basic questions about her standards for handling that job,” Specter explained—or attempted to explain—in a statement. “It is a distinctly different position than that of a Supreme Court Justice.”
His previous opposition to Kagan once again draws into sharp relief just how abruptly he’s transformed from a moderate Republican into one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate. It comes just as his lead over his primary challenger Joe Sestak has evaporated—thanks in large part to Sestak’s ad blitz blasting Specter’s metamorphosis.
Specter’s weathered a great deal of this since last Spring when he became a Democrat. He’s reversed his previous positions on health care reform and other major issues. In some cases he’s become an eloquent defender of positions he once opposed. But, at the very least, he’s had months to let voters’ memory of the oldArlen Specter fade.
With one week left before the primary—which is now a complete tossup—he’s doubly damned. The nomination comes both too soon for him to hope it doesn’t become an issue (in fact, Sestak’s already made it one) and too soon for him to use confirmation hearings to grab the spotlight and demonstrate his newfound party loyalty.
Specter still has Obama’s support…he just must be wishing Obama’s timing had been better.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.