April 28, 2009 8:18 a.m.

TPM polling and politics guru Eric Kleefeld is at work on our ‘Why Arlen Switched’ piece, which we’ll have up shortly. The basic issue of Specter’s tough primary fight is pretty clear. But Eric points out a key but less noticed point — the follow-on effects of last year’s Democratic primary and Obama’s candidacy. Democratic registrations swelled in Pennsylvania last year at the expense of Republicans. A lot of that was moderate Republicans who wanted to vote for Obama in the primary or the general. Or for that matter, moderate Republicans who wanted to vote for Hillary. Whatever your interpretation of why they were switching, that left the Republican primary electorate much more conservative than it was in the past, certainly much more than it was when he ran against Toomey the first time in 2004. And Pennsylvania has closed primaries.

In addition to the very daunting poll numbers, this had to figure strongly in Specter’s calculus.

We’ll have more shortly.

Late Update: Needless to say, this is quite a coup for the GOP, likely engineered by Michael Steele as a way to smoke out enemies.

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