The switch represents a coup for the House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized the Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls during the summer.
Griffith, who captured the seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties—and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject.
While the timing of his announcement was unexpected, Griffith’s party switch will not come as a surprise to those familiar with his voting record, which is one of the most conservative among Democrats.
He has bucked the Democratic leadership on nearly all of its major domestic initiatives, including the stimulus package, health care legislation, the cap-and trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.
He was one of only 11 House Democrats to vote against the stimulus.
He will note that the Democrats’ health care plans is the primary reason for the switch. It won’t be a significant change in Congress, but it certainly does have a foreboding quality when you look at 2010. I wonder if we’ll see more Blue Dog defections. Rahm Emmanuel’s strategy of recruiting Blue Dogs in the 2006 & 2008 elections could end up coming back to haunt him after all. I won’t hold my breath since most of them have caved thus far, but you never know.