Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said he was just talking to Sen. Arlen Specter last week about making arranagements for the Pennsylvania senator to come to the RJC’s annual meeting in June, and about events the organization wanted to do with him.
So Brooks said he was pretty surprised to hear Specter announce this morning that he was becoming a Democrat.
"It’s obviously disappointing that that Senator Specter chose to leave the party rather than continuing to work and affect the kind of change he wanted to have" in the party, said Brooks on Tuesday afternoon. "He’s always been a voice for his particular point of view, and it’s disappointing that he’s chosen to abandon the party."
Brooks said losing the only Jewish Republican currently in the Senate — pending the resolution of the Al Franken-Norm Coleman recount — should not be seen as an indicator of how Jewish Republicans are doing. Better measures of success, he said, are metrics like the number of RJC chapters around the country and the level of activism of Jewish GOPers.
As for losing a top Republican moderate to the other side of the aisle, the RJC leader said Specter’s defection was more a function of Pennsylvania electoral politics than disgruntlement at the national party.
"We’re engaged right now in soul-searching in the Republican Party," Brooks said. "If Specter was really disappointed" at the direction of the party, he is leaving at "precisely the time we’re embarking on an effort to remake the party."