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Welcoming The Party Switchers

The American Prospect's Benjamin Weyl had a great item yesterday on what's slowly become an important phenomenon: Republicans leaving the GOP and be

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The American Prospect's Benjamin Weyl had a great item yesterday on what's slowly become an important phenomenon: Republicans leaving the GOP and becoming Dems.

Kansas is the epicenter, with nine former Republicans running for office as Dems, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' (D) running mate, who was no less than the former state GOP chairman. But Weyl notes that it's not just Kansas. A prominent Republican in South Carolina recently switched parties; retired NBA star Charles Barkely is considering a gubernatorial campaign in Alabama as a Dem ("I was a Republican," he said. "Until they lost their minds"); and Senate candidate James Webb (Va.) was a Dem, became a Republican, and recently switched back.

When it comes to ex-Republican candidates, the question of Democratic authenticity -- not to mention ideological acceptability -- becomes even more glaring. But if the party is big enough to house everyone from Baucus to Boxer, surely it can welcome Republican converts, especially in places like Kansas and Virginia where Democrats need to become more competitive if they ever hope to regain majority party status.

"The more converts you get, the bigger the party you have. Are there going to be some people inside the Democratic Party who are resentful of switchers? Yes, there are people like that," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "[But] of course it's better for the Democrats to get those switches because it means: a) the party is attractive to people who it wasn't attractive to in the past; and b) that's how parties grow!"

Maybe some Dems will look askance at recent-converts to the Dem cause, but as I see it, the more Republicans who leave the GOP in disgust, and embrace Democrats for a new direction, the better.

--Guest Post by Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report

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