The news yesterday that Arlen Specter had officially flown the GOP coop is the latest example of the dangerous game that Republicans play when they try to appease mushy moderates for perceived political gain. In the long run, such calculated coddled more often than not comes back to blow up in the party's face as it has with Specter.
Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and there's not necessarily a lot to be gained by saying "We told you so," but with the case of Specter the defector I think it is helpful to recall that Republicans had a chance to avoid this fate had they acted differently back in 2004. Here's something that I posted in November 2004 chiding those who told us we had to support Specter at the time:
I for one have had enough of the "stability" in the Senate offered by the likes of Specter, Chafee, and Snowe. When Specter was challenged in the Republican primary by conservative Pat Toomey, many commentators on the right (including yours truly) backed Toomey. Unfortunately, President Bush, Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania's other senator), and Hugh supported Specter and helped him fend off Toomey.
Hugh Hewitt is an intelligent, generous man of unquestionable integrity who has done much to help the conservative cause (to say nothing of the blogosphere) through his talk radio show, his blog, and his books. But he was wrong about Specter in the Pennsylvania primary and he's wrong about him now.
Again, this isn't about me being right and Hugh being wrong (although that does bring me some measure of pleasure). It's about Republicans getting away from the short-sighted thinking about immediate political gain (or loss) and thinking about the long-term principles, integrity, and strength of the party. That might mean losing some battles today. However, it will make us a stronger party tomorrow, less vulnerable to the shifting allegiances of wobblers like Specter.
In this particular case, even the practical political realities of the time suggest that Republicans would have been better off choosing Toomey over Specter in 2004. While there's no guarantee that he would have won the general election in 2004, I gotta think his chances would have been better than in 2010.