Republican Senator Specter will switch to the Democrats

Big political news here in the US:

Veteran Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, intends to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party on Tuesday.

Sen. Arlen Specter was expected to face a tough primary challenge in 2010.

A Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was expected to face a very tough primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.

A Quinnipiac University survey of registered Pennsylvania voters released last month showed Specter trailing the more conservative Toomey in a hypothetical primary matchup, 41 to 27 percent.

A separate Franklin & Marshall survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 to 18 percent. Another 42 percent, however, were undecided.

More than half of the Republicans polled in the Franklin & Marshall survey said they would prefer to see someone new in the Senate.

Numerous Republicans are angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan.

Specter, one of only three GOP senators to vote for the measure, has been part of a dwindling group of GOP moderates from the northeastern part of the country.

How’s it playing on Fox News and Limbaugh? Are they fulminating, castigating or merely sputtering?

Update: TPM has Specter’s statement, including this:

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

Further update: Unfortunately Specter reaffirmed his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow a majority of employees at a workplace to authorize union representation by signing cards. This won’t make it easy for him to get critical labor support when he runs in the Democratic primary next year. TPM suggests he may vote to cut off debate on the measure, which would allow it to pass with a simple majority (without his vote).