For the more obsessive sorts, there’s an interesting set of dynamics which are looking increasingly likely to unfold in Pennsylvania.
Arlen Specter presently holds one of two Senate seats in the state and has done so since 1981. The other seat, previously held by (very conservative) Rick Santorum from ’95 through the last election, was lost to the Dems in the last election.
Specter’s seat is up for election next year and though he’s popular with Pennsylvanians, his moderate stance on certain issues has become a serious threat to his chances of getting nominated in the forthcoming Republican primary (a FAR more extremist segment of the electorate here…activist rightwingers a la Fox, Limbaugh, etc). An ultra-conservative challenger, Pat Toomey, has now declared he will run against Specter. If he does, Specter is very likely to lose the primary battle.
Which brings us to Joe Sestak, a very impressive Dem congressman from Penn and retired Navy vice admiral. It looks like he’s may well challenge for the Senate seat.
This (or any other reasonably credible Dem challenger) presents a serious problem for the Republicans and it is paradigmatic of the problem that party faces up the road. If the extremists in the party get their way and toss Specter for Toomey, they are very likely to lose the election and the Senate seat. But, as I said, the extremists in the party are most powerful at the level of primary elections.
Will they, in this race and others, continue their headlong pursuit towards the canyon floor through permitting extremism to trump?