Posted By: Michael Sweeney Mar. 12, 2009
Posted By: Michael Sweeney
Mar. 12, 2009
As we’ve been more than hinting at here and there in our recent political pieces on The Stonecipher Report, between the Michael Steele mismanagement of the Republican Party, the continuing "Party of ‘No!’" negative reputation of those GOPers already in office, the whole Rush-babbling mess, a remaining bit of W. hangover, and, of course, the popularity of President Obama, his policies, and even much of the Congressional Dems, it’s looking more and more as if the ’06 and ’08 electoral trends favoring the Democrats will definitely continue in the upcoming 2010 election.
Now, as many may realize (or at least perhaps have heard), this continuation of the Democratic Party’s recent legislative winning streak – if it occurs (as expected) – would definitely fly in the face of historical precedent. There is almost always at least a bit of a backlash against the current President’s party in the first midterm elections after the elevation of a new Chief Executive.
Here’s a quick look at the last 50+ years of these occurrences: After leading his party to its first White House win in 24 years, Ike lost both Houses of Congress in 1954; in 1962, the Democrats managed to gain a few Senate seats (and lost a few House seats); in ’66, the Dems lost a bunch (but retained control); in ’70, Nixon and the Repubs gained a couple in the Senate, but lost a lot in the House; in the mere-months-after-Nixon’s-resignation ’74 election, the GOP lost tons in both houses (in the backlash to Watergate); Dems maintained control but lost many seats in ’78; during the 1982 election, the Reagan momentum (the GOP had regained the Senate for the first time in 26 years in ’80) derailed a bit, with huge losses in the already-Dem-controlled House; by ’90, the Dems were back in control of the Legislative Branch and the in-the-White-House-for-10 years Repubs lost a few seats in both the Senate and the House; 1994 was the "Contract With America" landslide, with both houses showing huge losses for the President’s Democratic Party (including the House of Reps going to the GOP for the first time in 40 years); and ’02 was historically aberrational, with the ruling GOP picking up a handful of seats in both houses in the charged first national election after the 9/11 attacks.
Clearly – even with ’02 being an exception more than explained by the current events at the time – for the Dems to not only maintain their leads in both houses but to significantly add to them would be fairly historic. But that definitely looks like it’s where 2010 is heading…
There are up to 37 Senate races (potentially; depending on such yet-to-be-determined factors as potential retirements – to run in other races or just to quit – in the next year-and-a-half) coming up in ’10. (This also includes the special elections to be held in New York and Delaware following the elevations of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden; the Illinois seat currently held by Roland Burris (after the election of Barack Obama) and the Colorado seat filled by Michael Bennet (following the pick of Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior) are both on their regular election schedule for 2010.) Of course, many of these Senate seats are expected to be held by the incumbents (or by their party) – no one sees stark red Idaho, Utah, Alabama, and South Carolina switching to blue…OR true-blue Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Maryland even beginning to approach purple (much less red).
And there are even a few Democrats – or Dem-held seats – that are considered a bit in danger of being flipped…but these depend on many still-up-in-the-air factors. For example, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd has been feeling some polling heat (but is still a potentially strong competitor for what would be his sixth term)…New York’s new Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might have difficulty if former GOP Governor George Pataki runs against her (but, of course, NY Sen. Chuck Schumer – whose seat is also up in ’10 – is a solid lock to win)…and the Illinois GOP still holds out hope-against-hope that either A) Sen. Burris somehow wins the Dem primary (which ain’t gonna happen) so they can run against the easy target, or B) IL voters will simply decided to reject the party of Blago (yeah, but also the party of Obama, Daley, current Gov. Quinn…and EVERY current statewide elected official in IL).
…But, there are a good up-to-half-dozen Senate seats that look like distinct possibilities (or, in the case of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, nearly definite probabilities) of switching from the Republican side to the Democrats – meaning, of course, a significant 60+, un-filibuster-able voting edge for the President’s party.
Almost certain to change parties – one way or another – is the PA seat currently filled by Repub Sen. Arlen Specter (who split with his party to support the President’s stimulus bill). It is thought that either A) Specter flips off the Big Elephants and switches parties (likely well before the election), B) He sticks with the GOP, but is defeated as a centrist by an extreme-right Repub in the primaries (who then easily loses purple-going-blue PA to the Dem candidate in the statewide elections), or C) A battered Specter manages to pull out the GOP primary by drifting away from the center, and then HE loses to a Dem in the general election.
Also seeming ready to teeter over to the Dems is the New Hampshire seat currently filled by the retiring Sen. Judd Gregg. New England has become all-but-free of Repubs (the Maine GOP Sens. Collins and Snowe are already "RINOs" – "Republicans in Name Only," regularly voting with the Dems), and NH looks definitely ready to continue its blue moves by sending a Dem to succeed Gregg...who, of course, rejected a spot in the Obama Cabinet.
The situation in also-trending-purple Kentucky is more complicated (and even amusing) (well, it is to Democrats, anyway). Sen. Jim Bunning (a Baseball Hall of Famer who once pitched one of the 17 perfect games in Major League Baseball history) had some problems – ranting and not making sense to reporters – a few years back that made many think he had (literally) gone over the hill and lost his mind. Now the 77-year-old Bunning wishes to run for re-election to a third term in 2010...but the local AND national GOP does NOT want him to run again and is threatening to withhold funds for his campaign or to strongly back an opponent in the Repub primary. These actions have made Bunning react by then cross-threatening to resign his seat now and allow KY's Dem Governor to appoint a Democrat to replace him. This would give the Dems the important 60th Senate vote now AND hand the replacement Senator the incumbency leg-up in the ’10 election. In any event, this seat in a transitioning state definitely looks ready to flip
The open seats in Ohio, Florida, and Missouri (all currently held by retiring Repubs) are definitely in play; if the expected strong Dem candidates or contenders keep momentum moving in their direction, any or all of these could end up in the Democratic column. And borderline GOP incumbent Senators considered in possible danger of losing include Louisiana’s David Vitter (although he’s been apparently Teflon against the hooker charges; man, did LA Dems screw up for years down there), North Carolina’s Richard Burr (remember – NC went for Obama as its first Presidential Dem since 1976), and perhaps even South Dakota’s John Thune and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski (much depends on how their opposition emerges).
Out of these three near certainties, three very strong situations, and four definite possibilities, it is strongly expected that the Democrats will win four, five, or six seats, potentially making the Senate split – let’s then call it 65-35, counting the Dem-voting independents – the largest gap since the post-JFK-assassination, post-Goldwater-landslide-loss 68-32 Dem lead established in the 1964 election. Ah, good times, good times…
…And you can be sure that there will be PLENTY more coverage on this sort of happy trending on The Stonecipher Report as it unwinds over the next 19-1/2 months. Be sure to stay tuned for that…
For more coverage of politics, look for my regular posts here on The Stonecipher Report. (And, for a free subscription to my twice-weekly e-mail column on politics and pop-culture, "And, in the News…" send a note to: firstname.lastname@example.org)