The House Republican caucus is getting a present in its Christmas stocking: A new member of the caucus, with freshman conservative Democratic Congressman Parker Griffith of Alabama switching parties.
Griffith's switch was first reported by Politico, and confirmed to TPM by a GOP source who requested anonymity so as not to pre-empt Griffith's official announcement later today. Griffith's change of party puts the current makeup of the House at 257 Democrats to 178 Republicans -- the GOP would need to pick up 40 seats, without any other party switches, to win control in 2010.
Griffith, a medical doctor and former Alabama state legislator, was first elected to Congress in 2008, to an open seat previously held by retiring Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer. John McCain carried his district by 61%-38%, while Griffith defeated Republican opponent Wayne Parker by the slender margin of 51%-48%. Over this past summer, he told a local newspaper that he wouldn't support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker again, saying she was too divisive.
Griffith's party switch will provide Republicans with some rhetorical muscle about people rushing to their banner against the Democratic agenda, but in practical terms in Congress it won't mean much for Democrats. Griffith was a consistent vote against the Democratic agenda this whole year -- as examples, he voted against the stimulus, against the cap-and-trade bill, and against the health care bill.