Monday, November 15, 2004

Is Specter losing his battle?

Maybe. From the Washington Prowler:


Midday Monday, members of the conservative "Monday Meeting" group in New York received the following e-mail:

"We regret to announce that Senator [Arlen] Specter's office has informed us that Senator Specter would be unable to attend tonight's Monday Meeting. According to Senator Specter's office, the Senator is held up in Washington by the demands of regular business in light of plans for a shortened lame duck session as well as the demands of meetings relating to leadership issues."

Specter was expected to attend last night's meeting with Sen. Rick Santorum, and to mount his most public defense for the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Specter's office was doing a bit of spin on Specter's cancellation. Santorum, after all, remained committed to attending the meeting and shilling for his fellow Pennsylvanian.

Word among senior Senate staffers was that Specter over the past 36 hours has grown increasingly alarmed at what he is hearing out of the GOP caucus in the Senate. Pointedly: that support for his chairmanship is rapidly crumbling under an assault from conservative groups across the country.

On Monday in Washington, a number of incoming freshman Republican Senators were asked about their support of Specter, and to a man, most declined to say what they were thinking of doing.

These were piled on top of the brutally frank remarks of Senate leader Sen. Bill Frist on Sunday, which made it clear that Specter will have to fight for his chairmanship without the aid of his GOP leadership.

Even Judiciary member Sen. John Cornyn is believed to privately be leaning voting against Specter, despite some public words of support late last week. "What Senator Cornyn said was not a public statement of support, it was an attempt to convey to Senator Specter that he had to be more vocal and clear about where his head was at, and that if he were more open and frank publicly, support for him would follow," says a Cornyn staffer. "If Senator Specter misconstrued the remarks, that is unfortunate."

There is a school of thought inside the Senate that Specter has indeed badly misjudged the environment in which he has been operating. "Specter for the past week has believed that he was winning this thing," says a Senate leadership staffer. "Today [Monday] it appears that it has finally become clear to him that he is not winning this thing. He is losing it, unless he starts making a concerted effort to sway some votes. The Senator's staff may have done him a great disservice by leading him to believe he was successfully weathering this situation."

The resulting panic is what led Specter to cancel his appearance in New York and to focus his attention, not on public relations, but on private discussions with his Senate colleagues. "The folks at the Monday Meeting aren't the ones who are going to cast a vote for him behind closed doors in a couple of months," says another Senate staffer. "That he has been unable to shore up support within the committee is troubling. Perhaps he isn't working hard enough."