I’ve been following the PA senate primary as a concerned Delawarean, and I’m surprised that the only great coverage to come from the entire affair was The American Spectator’s. Young reporter Shawn Macomber got into the race the way CNN, The NYT, and (especially) National Review never did, even with their greater resources. NR’s coverage was simply disgraceful, cooked-over press releases and wishful thinking with a dash of gut-clenching, horrific prose (I’m looking at you, Jack Fowler).
The conservative hand-wringing about this race has given me pause, too. It looks for all the world like a complacent conservative movement is trying to purify itself and root out the unfaithful in the Republican party. I don’t like that. It smacks too much of how Democrats frittered away their majorities in the late 1970s, engaging in stupid wrestling matches with an insufficiently liberal Jimmy Carter. Both of the parties have earned their majorities by including clusters of dissidents in their caucuses – see the Southern bloc that maintained the Dem majority in the 1950s and 1960s or the small number of moderates who keep up the GOP majorities today. It’s a good thing when our parties cast wide nets – it’s been proven good in the UK, when the Conservatives and Labour became governing parties by including elements from the far right and far left.
More specifically, I don’t like Toomey. My gut tells me he’s a dull, gnomish candidate who bores non-believers from the word “go.” I’ve watched him perform on C-Span, built up by glowing reviews in college newspapers and NRO, and seen a very doctrinaire conservative who is unable to explain how he came to his views. According to Michael Barone, Toomey actually has an interesting story to tell – he was born blue collar in Rhode Island, won a scholarship to Harvard, and made a fortune in investment banking which he parlayed into restaurant businesses. He COULD explain why a free-market policy works better than the Democratic alternative. Bob Ehrlich, a Republican with a similar background, did that successfully in Maryland. But Toomey doesn’t have the skill.
I’m guessing Arlen Specter will win a fairly close race by under 10 points.