It would appear that switching parties doesn’t do you much good in this political climate. The two politicians who have done it this cycle – Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Parker Griffith – lost their primary elections by solid margins from voters, in a resonating message that the person matters just as much as the issues.
"Lesson: If you and your old party have enough bad blood that you’re ready to switch sides, the new party may not find you all that warm and cuddly, either. Maybe the issue lies with you, after all," said Jim Geraghty, in his primary roundup at the Campaign Spot.
In other words: if you’re willing to turn your back on your principles, you probably aren’t going to get re-elected. Griffith, who was ousted on Tuesday night, had voted against almost every major Democratic piece of legislation, and had actively campaigned on a pro-Republican platform. He had received the endorsement of Minority Leader John Boehner, who raised thousands of dollars for him during the campaign.
Alabama’s 5th congressional district leans far to the right, having pulled the lever for John McCain by a margin of 51% in the last Presidential election. That means it’s smooth sailing for Mo Brooks, the GOP primary winner, when he takes on Steve Raby in Alabama’s November general election. It’s even more smooth sailing because Brooks didn’t go negative during the primary. Griffith highlighted Brooks’ support of an earmark, while Brooks concentrated on his conservative credentials and local endorsements.
Rep. Joe Sestak, who beat Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, had similarly played it safe during the campaign, with Specter running full-blown attack ads on Sestak throughout their fight. Sestak came out on top, but now has to deal with the fallout from the White House bribery scandal.
Many pundits noted that Griffith and Specter lacked the "oomph" of former Sen. Phill Gramm, who successfully switched parties twice. Gramm quit the Congress halfway into his second term because, as a Democrat, he supported Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, and the Democratic majority didn’t want him on the House Budget Committee anymore. After resigning, he ran as a Republican and went on to complete one House term and two Senate terms.