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April 28, 2004
Be Careful What You Wish For

George Bush must be pleased to see the results from Pennsylvania's primary election last night, which saw the candidate he personally endorsed, incumbent moderate Arlen Specter, narrowly edge out conservative challenger and current Congressman Pat Toomey by two points, which amounted to less than 17,000 votes. Bush went to Pennsylvania to campaign for Specter's re-election and threw the weight of the state and national GOP behind Specter's run. After all, Specter represents so many of the things that Bush wants:

He supports abortion rights, voted against limiting medical malpractice awards and successfully pushed for a reduction in the size of Bush's tax cut package back in 2001, though he voted for the tax cuts in the end. ... He has also questioned provisions in the Patriot Act, which Bush has been pushing to renew.

Well, then, Toomey represented a real threat to Bush's legislative initiatives after re-election ... right?

A spending hawk in the House, he has drawn the ire of even some of his fellow Republicans by challenging increased federal spending, including a 2002 farm bill that he likened to "Soviet-style agricultural policy."

He proposed making Bush's tax cuts even larger, and, like the president, supports restrictions on abortion and medical malpractice awards.

Hmm. Well, Bush got the "electable" man he wanted, opting to play it safe rather than support the candidate who supported him, since you can hardly call Arlen Specter loyal to the Bush agenda. The political calculation necessitated by the wafer-thin Republican majority in the Senate may be understandable, but it disappoints nonetheless. The Republicans are certain to significantly increase that majority with the five open and formerly Democratic seats in the South, and Bush could have taken a chance on supporting Toomey in the primary, at least.

It's a rare instance of caution from a politician who has built his career on taking risks, such as his full-court press in 2002, which paid off amazingly well. While I hope that the White House does get what it wants from the election, I suspect that they will live to regret their support of the ever-difficult Specter.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 28, 2004 6:06 AM

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