Senate in 2010

I know I touched on this a little previously, but I thought I’d use a free blogging moment to spell out the doom on the horizon for the Republican party. The midterm election comes around in November of 2010. Historical trends indicate that the Democrats shouldn’t go as well as they have in the past – and, numbers wise, they shouldn’t. They control all 3 positions (House, Senate, and White House) by good majorities. You would think that they have won as much ground as is possible in a two-party system. But consider this: there are four Republican senators who have officially announced that they will not be seeking reelection in 2010. Incumbents, whether popular or not, always have the edge in elections. Sometimes it’s even enough to get them over the line when the party they represent isn’t all that popular. The four are  George Voinovich (R-OH), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Kit Bond (R-MO).

Voinovich is the latest to announce, and coming from Ohio, his seat will be a priority for the Democrats. As swing as Ohio seems in the past, it seems to only really be the case for the presidential election. 10 out of the 18 House seats that the state has are Democrat, with a spread over the whole state, unlike Pennsylvania where the Democrat’s are clustered around the metro areas. Another worrying sign: the other senator from the state, Sherrod Brown, is a Democrat. He was a previous congressman for 12 years, then moved on to become Ohio’s secretary of state for 2 years, then was voted into his current seat against an incumbent Republican. Now that shows that the state is starting to trend blue, at least for state-based election results – when an innocent Republican senator (Mike DeWine) is outed for not really doing much wrong except being a Republican. And, a final bell-toll, the current governor of the state, Ted Strickland, is a Democrat as well. The signs bode well for the Democrats in Ohio.

Mel Martinez, hailing from Florida, has opened up a wide race. In Florida, the Republicans probably thought they could rely on former governor Jeb Bush to run – and probably win. He ruled himself out of the race a few weeks ago. Now, there’ no real favourite unless Charlie Crist, current Republican governor, stepped down to run. But why would he? What do the Republicans have to offer  him in the senate? Think about the situation. Those Republicans in powerful jobs, or even current safe House seats, don’t have to gamble on a state-wide election. They have a job, and that’s probably enough for a lot of them. For anyone with ambition, then the gamble is something they will take. But in the 2010 election, they will be giving up their current position for a long-shot chance of winning a freshman (that is, powerless) senate seat, all part of an even more powerless minority in the chambers? Do you see a current Republican governor opting out for that?

The same sort of situation is going on in Kansas and Missouri. Missouri is the one to watch – the governorship went the the Democrats in 2008, and McCain only won the state by less than 4,000 votes on election day. The Democrats don’t have the biggest pool to pull from, but they do have some contenders. Same with Kansas – while generally a strong Republican state in general elections, the current governor is a Democrat who might be looking to advance in the ranks of the party. Kathleen Sebelius was touted as a possible Democratic VP for Obama; a long shot, but a possibility. Then a possible cabinet member. Neither happened for various reasons. A move to the senate would be a step in the right direction of national prominence.

The senate currently stands at 59 seats for the Democrats, 41 for the Republicans. If the Democrats win one  more, they have a filibuster-proof majority and every bill that comes before them must be voted on. It’s not so hard to get a Republican to cross sides to vote down a filibuster now – but in the danger that the Republicans are whipped into shape and a strong party leader emerges (like Newt Gingrich in the House through the 1990s), it might be very difficult. And a leader like that might make things difficult for the Obama administration. Better to have the definite numbers, which is a big enough threat to Republicans to begin with than actually having to vote down a filibuster.

But that’s not the worst thing. It’s that with these four going, and the real prospect of Democrats gaining another 2 seats, the Republicans will be in the wilderness for a long, long time. To peg back a majority in the senate from a sub-40 seat position is beyond difficult. It’s a generational change that they need. And that’s a 10-20 year plan right there. Do you think many high-profile Republicans will give up whatever place they have now for a long-shot gamble to win a senate seat in a powerless minority? Further, do you think that current senators, like Jim Bunning (R-KY), Arlen Specter (R-PA), David Vitter (R-LA), and others on the verge of retirement will want to stick around? I think it unlikely.

The Republicans are facing some seriously troubled times ahead. How they manage them will be something to watch indeed. It will be an entertaining failure or masterful politics.



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