This is being reported everywhere and Ben Smith has the full statement from Soecter's office. The important thing to run through now is the math. Currently, there are 56 Democrats in the Senate. Both Socialist Bernie Sanders and Independent Democrat Joe Liberman caucus with the Democrats. It appears that Stuart Smalley will win in Minnesota. That will bring the number of Senators caucusing with the Democrats to 59. Now, that's just under the magic number of 60. With Specter that number goes up to 60. Still, don't expect any resolution to the race in Minnesota for at least a month, and I suspect that Republican lawyers will now do everything they can to grind it to a halt. Soon enough though, the Democrats will have a filibuster proof majority.
As for Specter, this looks like pure political survival. All the polling put Specter in big trouble in the upcoming Republican primary in Pennsylvania in 2010 to Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania is no Connecticut and so an independent run would have been no easy task either. Specter's goose was likely cooked in the primary when he supported the stimulus. Running as a Democrat likely puts him in the lead. Pennsylvania is solid blue. Toomey's small government low taxes message works in the primary. So, too, does his anti Obama message. It won't work nearly as well in a general election.
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