SENATE 2010: OVERVIEW AND UNCOMPETITIVES

Posted in Election 2010 on March 29th, 2010 by Ed

I know how many of you have been checking this site 10, 20, perhaps even 100 times daily just waiting for the beginning of the 2010 Senate series. Wait no more.

Monday! Monday! Monday!
One day only! (only…only…)
GIN and TACOS (tacos…tacos…) will begin:

(unnaturally deep voice) balls to the wall coverage (end deep voice)

Of the 2010 races in the United States Senate! Senate! Senate!
At the Madison County Fairgrounds
We'll sell you the whole seat…BUT YOU'LL ONLY USE THE EDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDGE

That's right. My analysis: let me show you it.

The past 12 months have been a useful lesson in the breakneck speed with which the winds change in American politics. Throughout 2009 we saw Barack Obama go from the penthouse to the shithouse. Congressional Democrats went from cakewalking through the 2006 and 2008 elections to losing a Senate seat in Massachusetts of all places. Suddenly the media and the Beltway were grandly predicting entirely improbable midterm gains for the GOP – ten Senate seats, eighty-plus in the House. The streets would run red with the blood of all who dared oppose them.

Well, that was January. Two months later the predictions have come back down to Earth. The midterm loss is a very real phenomenon in American politics, holding true in all but two elections in our 220 years of history (1998 and 2002). On top of the historical inevitability of Democratic losses this year, the Senate and House majorities have gotten about as large as one could reasonably expect in modern politics. Once you get to 59 or 60 in the Senate, the odds of further gains approach the size of Jim Inhofe's IQ. So no one, extremists or the uninformed aside, would call Vegas and bet money on anything but Republican gains this year. That's a given.

That said, Michael Steele might want to hold off on the ticker tape parade.

Conservative commentators have gleefully monitored the President's falling approval rating and that of the current Congressional leadership while conveniently overlooking the following:

They should be careful pointing out how little the public likes Harry Reid. I mean, they're not exactly erecting statues of and sacrificing the fatted calf for Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. The second cautionary tale, and one that the non-Fox media are starting to pick up on, is that the Teabaggers simply aren't that large of a group. No matter how hard talk radio hosts try to convince themselves and the rest of us that it is some giant revolutionary movement sweeping the country, it's becoming painfully clear that it is a small group funded by the usual suspects and composed mostly of certified nutbars – the ranting coworker or psychotic uncle we all go out of our way to avoid. The Great White Hope is more likely to fizzle out (How'd their primary candidates do so far?) than to become more influential as the election progresses.

So the big picture is pretty unexciting: a gain of 3 or 4 seats in the Senate for the GOP, with considerable margin for error given how much the political tides can turn in the next seven months. There are a great many races that appear to be toss-ups at the moment, as one would expect in March, and the summer months largely will determine which way they break. It'll be a nice year for the GOP, but if they're anticipating a repeat of 1994 they're going to be disappointed.

Let's take a brief look at the uncompetitive races. Right now I have 18 in this category; the won't be worth our attention unless something exceptional happens. It happens, but it doesn't happen often. Jim Webb didn't have a chance against George "Macaca" Allen a few years ago, but that race became competitive out of nowhere about a month before the election.

Two races in this group have some potential to move. In Wisconsin, Feingold will have a tough race on his hands if former Governor and Bush Cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson decides to run. He has been on the fence for months and frankly I don't think he'll do it. He's about to turn 69 and despite his popularity in Wisconsin, he wouldn't even be a favorite against Feingold. Could he win? Sure. But the money would still be on Russ. The second race is the Gillibrand special election in New York. She's not much of a candidate – sort of a mushy Clintonite centrist – but I've grown sick of listening to the GOP talk about their grand, brilliant plans to win one of the NY Senate seats. They've been hatching one scheme and one unbeatable miracle candidate after another for the last decade. The outcome is always the same. They're throwing George Pataki's name around (as they always do) and it remains to be seen if he'd be as good as his party thinks he would be. Right now I'm guessing he declines (again) and Gillibrand walks over whichever Republican Congressman throws his name on the ballot.

To be continued and updated as necessary. Welcome back.

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