Several officials say veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania intends to switch parties, advancing his own hopes of winning a new term next year while pushing Democrats one step closer to a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.
The sources said an announcement could come later in the day — or Wednesday. The officials who provided the information did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss his plans.
Specter is a 79-year-old veteran of five Senate terms, and one of only a handful of moderate Republicans left in Congress in a party made up largely of conservatives.
Specter is facing a very difficult primary against a more conservative GOP challenger in 2010. This will certainly help him sidestep that particular problem. Incidentally, once Franken is seated, this would put the Democrats at the 60-seat filibuster proof majority, though of course Specter would join the ranks of the conservative Dems whom Reid sometimes has difficulty corralling.
UPDATE: It's official.
"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."
He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
Welcome aboard Sen. Specter (D-PA)!
UPDATE II: The bitter tears of the right wing please me.
UPDATE III: John Cole tastes their sweet tears as well.