In the new issue of dead-tree TIME, I take a look at what, for my money, is the most fascinating Senate race in 2010. I hope you’ll read the whole story here. (Or, even better, in the magazine.) It explores the race in the context of how much has changed in politics since Arlen Specter made his leap to the Democratic Party last year:
At the time, Specter’s switch was hailed as a heady affirmation that Barack Obama had ushered the nation into a new, post-partisan era. With the defection of one of its last Senate moderates, what was left of the GOP appeared to be careering rightward, to a hard-core base that was beginning to resemble a cult as much as a political party.
But a year later, those calculations have been tossed upside down. Obama’s poll numbers have come back to earth. And the filibuster-proof Senate majority that Specter’s defection delivered to the Democrats vanished when Massachusetts voters handed Teddy Kennedy’s old seat to Scott Brown. Democratic control of the House is in jeopardy, and the party stands to lose at least a half-dozen seats in the Senate. “Unless something significant changes,” political handicapper Charlie Cook wrote last month, Democrats “are headed toward the losses of the magnitude we saw in the midterm elections of 1958, 1966, 1974, 1994 and 2006.”
Nowhere is the political shift more evident than in Pennsylvania, a quintessential swing state, where Specter now finds himself in the political fight of his life. Last year’s party switch has left him exposed on both his left and his right in a 2010 political environment that has turned decidedly toxic for incumbents. This is despite the fact that the Democratic establishment has locked arms around its 80-year-old convert.