Experts: Two Texas Tech Researchers Can Discuss Specter Defection

Two political science professors can discuss possible fallout for the Republicans and historical significance of party-switching.

In a move for political survival, moderate Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat Wednesday, putting the Democrats one step closer to a possible 60-vote Senatorial control. Timothy Nokken, assistant professor of political science, has published several articles on the consequences on roll-call voting in terms of party switching. He can discuss how Specter's move could play out in the future - especially if Minnesota does seat Democrat Al Franken as its senator. "In the modern era, switching parties is a rare event," Nokken said. "We've seen fewer than 30 party switches since World War II. Given the nature of politics today, they're an interesting kind of event. Specter is trying to save his political life, and I don't think he can do that as a Republican. His constituents became more Democratic and his Senate Republicans have become more conservative. So he's kind of hanging on the left fringe of the party. This kind of adds to what was already a bad Republican year this year." Craig A. Goodman is an assistant professor of political science with expertise in Congressional operations. He said that a Republican-to-Democrat switch is much rarer than Democrat-to-Republican switches, and can discuss how Specter's decision might affect the Senate in terms of legislative procedure and what it means for the Republican and Democratic parties going forward. "There are a number of more conservative Democrats that may not be counted upon when it comes time for a vote," Goodman said. "The Democrats are more of an unwieldy coalition than Republicans often are." He said the Democrats don't have the Senate clinched yet, even if Franken is seated. However, Specter's decision reinforces the perception of the Republican Party as a much narrower coalition dominated by Southern voices. CONTACT: Timothy Nokken, assistant professor of political science, Texas Tech University, (806) 559-2535 or timothy.nokken@ttu.edu, Craig A. Goodman, assistant professor of political science, Texas Tech University, (806) 790-8715 or craig.goodman@ttu.edu.