Philip Maddocks: Republican Party claims it dumped Sen. Arlen Specter, not the other way around

Philip Maddocks

Speaking out for the 109th time since their bitter breakup last week, an emotionally wrought but defiant Republican Party, the longtime companion of Sen. Arlen Specter, said it had been the party that had left Specter, and not the other way around.

"Despite what the senator has been telling the press, we know the truth, and he knows the truth, and all of that will come to light in good time," said Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. "I don’t think the public buys it for one minute. And I know Republicans know better."

Mr. Steele did not mince words about the senator, saying Mr. Specter "didn’t leave the GOP; he was tossed out on his ear."

The Republican National Committee chairman, who described Specter as an aging Lothario, said the senator from Pennsylvania "is just trying to make himself look good" after the party had sent him packing.

"He knew the party was leaving him, so he came up with this story that he thought would seduce the Democratic Party, but they’ll learn the truth and they will walk out him just like we did," said Mr. Steele.

News of the breakup shocked Senate Republicans, who had been hanging on to the belief that Mr. Specter and the Republican Party, despite their frequent public squabbles, were made for each other, and in the end, it would be their love for one other that would win out.

After the news of the breakup came to light last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, called an emergency intervention, summoning party leaders in an effort to get Mr. Specter and the party to make up, but their differences proved too great to reconcile.

Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a man with his own history of breaking up with his party, expressed regret and said he had no indication that Mr. Specter and the Republican Party were parting after almost 30 years of intimate companionship. But Mr. McCain said he understood the reason for the split.

The senator stopped short of dismissing Specter’s personal woes as just a phase he was going through, but he did hold out hope the senator from Pennsylvania and the Republican Party might find their way back into one another’s embrace.

"It’s pretty obvious that Senator Specter needs to find a good woman like Sarah Palin who can help ground him and bring him back into the fold," said Mr. McCain.

The Democratic Party could barely contain its joy at having won over Mr. Specter’s heart and seemed infatuated with its new beau.

"I know I speak for myself, and I think I speak for the party, too, when I say we will welcome him with open arms," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.

Though White House officials said there was no realistic way to flat out promise the Democratic Party’s new love would not face a primary in the party nomination for senator, it did note that there is no Democrat out there in a position "to resist his charms" and make a realistic challenge. More than that, White House officials said they had assured Mr. Specter that he would have the full backing of President Obama should he take up with the Democratic Party. They also said that the president would happily campaign for the new couple and raise money for Mr. Specter if that was necessary.

At the White House press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed that Mr. Obama pledged his full support to Mr. Specter.

"Full support means full support," Mr. Gibbs said, a dreamy, contented look washing over his face.

Mr. Specter, seeming to revel in his role as the seducer, shrugged off claims that he had been the one who had been dumped by his one-time love and suggested that but for his excessive tolerance, the relationship would have ended years earlier.

"Since my election in 1980, when we first consummated our relationship, the Republican Party has grown distant and has become unresponsive to my needs," said the senator. "I am not ashamed to say that I have wants."

Then adding, with a wink, "And I will do whatever I have to to satisfy them."

Philip Maddocks can be reached atpmaddock@cnc.com.