Where Specter's Big Switch Leaves the Senate

The Pennsylvania Republican's change of party theoretically gives Obama a historic margin, but it does not give him an unfettered hand

Alex Wong / Getty

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

It was only a joke. In mid-February, during backroom negotiations over the economic-stimulus package, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson tried to cut the tension. He turned to the three Republicans in the room and said, "If only you'd consider switching sides, then we'd all be on the same team and this would be a lot easier." Looking back on that moment, Democrat Nelson recalls something that seems far more telling now than it did at the time: Arlen Specter was the only one of them who didn't laugh.

Maybe the Pennsylvania Senator knew he was bound to...

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