Does Rep. Griffith's party switcheroo signal a broader trend ahead of midterm elections?
Conservative Rep. Parker Griffith's switch from the Democratic to the Republican party had been telegraphed for months. As one of four Democrats to oppose health care reform, the Alabama lawmaker boasted a conservative voting record and his staunch opposition to Nancy Pelosi is well-documented. What is less clear is the significance of the switch on either party. Pundits weight in:
Griffith's predictable defection from the Democrats is not nearly as significant as political heavyweight Arlen Specter's stunning switch to Democrats, writes NBC's Domenico Montanaro. "[C]onsidering Griffith's votes, when measuring his switch versus Arlen Specter's, Specter's was much more significant." He goes on to quote a Democratic aide who said Griffith's decision came as little shock to insiders. "He went off the reservation a long time ago. This just confirms what we already knew for a long time," he said.
The switch may not have been a power-grab for Republicans but it was a significant blow to Pelosi and Obama, writes Peter Roff in USNews & World Report. He suggests Griffith could be the "canary in the coal mine" for other right-leaning Democrats and that the loss of any seat, which costs millions to retain or win, has an impact on party politics. "[L]osing one is always significant -- but especially when it is the result of an act of conscience rather than vote totals," he writes.
The move certainly is an "unfortunate loss of momentum as Senate Democrats get set to pass their health reform bill," writes Jay Cost on RealClearPolitics’ HorseRaceBlog. Though not surprising, the switch signifies a shift in thinking. "It indicates that the decades-long geographical and ideological sorting of both parties is one going," he writes. “Griffith might not be the last party-switcher.”
Griffith's defection is a harbinger of things to come for Democrats next year, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato tells Politico. “Just about every signal we’ve had so far indicates that 2010 is going to be a tough year for Democrats,” he says. “The Democrats telling us Griffith’s switch doesn’t matter remind me of the Republicans who insisted that [Sen.] Arlen Specter’s party flip made no real difference. No, these things matter considerably, and they are indicators of which way the wind is blowing in a political season.”
This is a Christmas present to Alabama Democrats, blogs Matt Osborne for HuffPo. “What seems to be shaping up in Alabama is another NY-23,” the Alabama native writes. “The national party may have welcomed Griffith as its new incumbent, but the local party is balking. ... Griffith has guaranteed himself the hardest possible road to reelection; the GOP primary will be brutal, and the teabaggers have no qualms about running as independents.”