Taking Stock Of Parker Griffith: From The D To The R In The AL-05

In what should have been a sleepy recess week for the House of Representatives, Rep. Parker Griffith dropped a bombshell – he was leaving the Democratic party to join the Republicans.

The GOP was thrilled to add to their ranks and ready to use it as proof, they say, that Democrats could lose control of the House in 2010.

The Democrats were sad to lose a member but not really missing his vote since Griffith (AL) wasn’t with them on health care or other broad party agenda items and was a frequent Obama critic.

The facts on the ground suggest it’s certainly not going to be smooth sailing to reelection from a new party.

National Republicans were elated but the conservative, anti-establishment movement within the party cast a skeptical eye toward Griffith.

The two Republican candidates who were vying to challenge him as an incumbent now plan to primary him faster than you can say Dede Scozzafava.Republicans were happy to kick sand into the face of Democrats who are on the verge of a health care win but they have the rather large problem of attack ads they ran against him (which TPMDC has preserved here) and the potential for another intra-party battle to divert attention and resources.

It also will focus national attention on the race between a relatively unknown
incumbent and a newcomer, which either party could benefit from depending on the mood come November 2010.

Sarah Palin likes him, or at least sent him a warm welcome.

From a public relations perspective the timing is a bit strange. The statements from happy Republicans flooded our inbox but the optics would have been better for Griffith politically if he’d made the move when the House was in session (the week they returned from recess, for example, or even before they adjourned).

TPMDC checked in with another southern Democrat whose district is trending redder, but his office wanted to focus on the holidays.

Alabama readers, please stay in touch and let us know what you’re hearing on the ground.

Late Update: TPMDC’s Evan McMorris-Santoro chatted with Alabama Democratic party chair Joe Turnham tonight, and he said he doesn’t expect a new Democratic candidate to emerge in Griffith’s district until after the holidays.

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