We've already talked quite a bit about the upcoming presidential race. It may turn out to be less than enthralling, though, if the GOP nominates a dud and Obama finds himself on solid ground as the campaign heats up. The odds that the race will be competitive have increased with the seemingly accidental anointing-by-attrition of Mitt Romney, who is both the only remaining viable contender and the only one with a realistic shot at the incumbent. Regardless, the Senate races may end up being the more interesting story in 2012.

Way back in 2006** I noted that the terrain was unfavorable for the GOP because it was forced to defend a considerably greater number of Senate seats compared to the Democrats. Well, given the success of Democratic candidates that year it is now the Democrats who are disadvantaged by high levels of exposure in 2012. There are 33 races scheduled. Retirement is taking six Democrats but only two Republicans (both in safe seats). Of incumbents seeking reelection, the Democrats must defend 17 seats compared to only 8 for the Republicans. Obviously these numbers are subject to some change if additional incumbents retire, although most of the official announcements of candidacy have already been made.

The Democrats currently hold a 53 seat majority in the chamber including the two caucusing independents (with the high likelihood of replacing a retiring Joe Lieberman with a real Democrat). Most of the early analysis treats the loss of the chamber as a foregone conclusion. Is it?

Of the six retiring Democrats, one (Kent Conrad, ND) is a Republican lock. North Dakota's odd all-Democrat congressional delegation as late as 2009 was an anomaly the party could not expect to enjoy forever. That leaves 52.

In Nebraska, Ben Nelson is highly unlikely to be elected to a third term. The GOP field is weak but it may not matter in a state like Nebraska. Though Nelson is not 100% dead in the water, the vultures are circling. That leaves 51.

The four tightest, most exciting races this year will be a group of toss-up seats currently held by Democrats: WI (Kohl retirement), VA (Webb retirement), MT (Tester vs. Rehberg), and MO (Clare McCaskill). The Democrats would have to win three of those just to hold a 50-50 tie in the chamber, and that's not even counting additional races that are likely to be competitive like Florida (Bill Nelson), New Mexico (Bingaman retirement), Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar), and Ohio (Sherrod Brown). The odds of the Democrats winning seven or eight of the eight races mentioned here seem poor unless A) Obama somehow wins in a 2008-type landslide, or B) the Tea Party saves them by nominating unelectable tools in key races.

But wait! There are two Republican-held seats that will be a challenge to hold. Scott Brown must run for a full term in Massachusetts, and in a presidential election year his odds are not good – 60%+ of that state is going to be casting an Obama vote in all likelihood and Brown's seat is tenuous to begin with. Second, John Ensign's retirement in Nevada has set up a Congressman vs. Congresswoman race between Dean Heller (R) and Shelly Berkeley (D). That will be a barn burner, especially if Obama does well in Nevada again.

Republican moderates are getting primaried as well. In Indiana, Dick Lugar is a lock for re-election but Teatard Dick Mourdock is currently polling ahead for the GOP nomination. If Lugar is unseated the statewide race could be competitive. The same is true in Maine where Olympia Snowe has two Tea Party Express challengers. Neither will be a strong general election candidate.

In short, the Democrats are fighting a the war of 2012 on about 12 different fronts. It is unrealistic to expect that the party can prevail in so many tight races and toss-ups unless Obama somehow achieves a 1984-style blowout victory at the top of the ticket. That does not appear likely. At this early stage the odds are good that the Republicans will net a gain of at least four seats, giving them the Senate majority. If Obama returns to the White House alongside that outcome, we can expect gridlock on a biblical scale for at least two years. If the Senate and the White House both switch party control, then America can look forward to the kind of solid political leadership that Wisconsin and Florida have been enjoying since the 2010 midterms.

(**Holy shitballs. I have been writing this thing five times per week for eight years at this point. I can't tell if that shows impressive levels of commitment or if it's just pathetic.)

31 thoughts on “SENATE 2012: SON OF A…”

  • It shows impressive commitment. Most people in your position would have phoned it in for at least half the posts.

  • I expect Obama will win by a decent margin (it won't be a squeaker, but neither will he run away with it), and that both the Senate and the House will flip control. All bets are off if the current flagging recovery turns into a full-fledged double dip, though.

    One thing about Senate races – close ones all tend to come down on one side or the other. If there are eight seats up for grabs late in the election, you usually end up with one party picking them up 6-2 or 7-1, instead of splitting 4-4.

    The future doesn't look much better even if Obama wins. 2014 is likely to be mid-term election of Obama's second term, and the President's party has a history of getting creamed in those, and 2016 will see Obama trying to hand off the White House to his own party's successor, something which has failed the six of the last seven times it was tried (exception: 1988, when Bush 1.0 succeeded Reagan).

  • at least there will be no pretension that Obama is a Democrat then. he will be able to work with his cohorts out in the open. Obama deserves to lose, but with winners like Republicans, how can he lose.

    Obama's win is progressives' loss. and Republicans are at least straightforward in their hatred of the left. Obama is just a coy Blue Dog. frankly, a manchurian candidate. watch and see if Social Security and Medicare aren't partially attacked as part of the Debt Ceiling Bipartisan "Solution."

    i pray to God, assuming there is one, i am wrong about Social Security and Medicare.

    want to bet me I am wrong?

  • Middle Seaman says:

    It appears that it must get much worse before we will see day light. In English, 2012 will bring a GOP congress and Obama will continue his policy of "Yes" to everything GOP.

    The last 8 years did see the the GOP change from clowns to very dangerous clowns. You better repeat yourself some more. In are seriously on the way from the US to El Salvador and Obama likes the ride.

  • Anyone can answer this. How much longer is this radical conservatism going to last? I cant see how a party and ideology that embraces
    -privatizing Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, schools
    -dismantling public and private worker unions and all the worker rights laws fought for by said unions.
    -Racist policies regarding the influx of Hispanics
    -Bigoted policies regarding homosexuality
    -tax policies that worsen income inequality.
    -policies that insure the poor stay poor.
    -rejecting any and all science that isn't for the development of military technology
    -Continuing a drug war that serve no other purpose but to fuck over poor people and minorities.
    -absurd amounts of military support for Israel based on some shit from the bible about jesus coming back when Israel is formed.
    -a FUCKING CONVERSATION on potentially scaling back child labor laws. (google Jane Cunningham)
    -opposing any and all regulation rather is environmental, consumer protection, worker safety etc
    -will probably start discussing rather sick time, vacation, breaks and minimum wage are good for the free market (oh shit they already are)

    How can this party and ideology stay relevant in the upcoming decades?
    It seems that they will end up pissing off more people than the white older suburban/rural base have.
    What the fuck am I saying, I'm fucking naive for even thinking this will become irrelevant.

  • @ts46064: Great points all, Unfortunately, a large percentage of the silent majority that comprises all of the people who are negatively impacted by those policies either don't vote based on their own interests, or don't vote at all. Until that changes, it's gonna be 1890 all over again!

  • I'm not nearly as pessimistic as the lot of you are. The Republican primary coverage, thus far, has been nothing less than a gigantic embarrassing shit show on the part of Republicans. They don't have a viable candidate that's the least bit believable. And the louder the idiots, which are most of them, talk, the worse the Republicans look, and that filters down to a state level as well. If the Democrats can stick the "end Medicare" card on the Republicans, they're fucked.

    Their base is dying, and in states that could swing (Ohio and Florida), the Republican controlled governors and legislatures have made such gigantic asses of themselves that most of those Senatorial seats aren't as close as you could argue they should be.

    My thoughts: Obama gets re-elected and neither house changes hands.

  • @ts: never underestimate people's ability to plumb newer and ever greater depths of stupidity. I'm continually reminded that security is but a handbreadth from Hell.

    What we have to hope is that the Dems will hold the line on the debt ceiling over Medicare, and skewer the R's with that as well when the economy tanks. A very strong marketing campaign about how by the R's tanking the economy shows how anti-America they are.

    If Ohio can shaft Kaisich on the union bill, and the Dems can flip Wisc. Then some kind of momentum could be built. Surely there's enough momentum being generated in the states.

    Biggest enemy the Dems have are themselves at the moment.

  • anotherbozo says:

    "I have been writing this thing five times per week for eight years at this point."

    OK, but some of us have only recently tuned in. Wait'll your hits get up to 1 mil per day and then consider a change. BTW, How many right now? Do you have a counter somewhere? Curious. I bet the number's grown considerably.

    Hemingway wrote of another writer, Tillie Olsen: "However many readers she has, she will never have enough." My thoughts on Ed.

  • anotherbozo says:

    I'd still say watch out for Huntsman. My authority for this is (a) his play this a.m. on CNN, (b) the influence of central casting on presidential politics, and (c) the fact that America usually doesn't like retreads and gets bored with the same old candidates, ie, Romney. Besides, Huntsman would make it OK for DINOs to vote for a Republican, since he was in the Obama administration.

  • @bozo:
    More power to Huntsman. And Palin, Cain, etc. Let the GOP primary be a demolition derby that leaves the victor with significant damage and acrimony.

    Ed, I know you don't do over-unders on the House, but I am curious about the fate of this new class of 'bagger Congressmen. How are they doin' lately? Is the GOP going to throw a lot of resources behind, say, Chip Cravaack, in the face of a significant challenge?

    I could imagine the Democrats picking up the House, losing the Senate and holding the Oval Office. And Obama remains a rubber stamp for big business.

  • Re: Sherrod Brown – after what the newly-elected Koch-smoker (Kasich) has been pulling, if Ohio elects another Republican to *anything* I'll be shocked…

  • Elder Futhark says:

    …if I have to watch one more fat fucker on TV lose weight, I swear to God I am going to start killing people…

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I'm relatively new here, but I'd like to thank you for what I've been reading.
    I wish I'd known about this site for the past 8 years.
    Keep up the great work!!!

  • Republican presidential primary candidates are taking ultra-radical, and mostly unpopular, positions in order to appeal to the base. The Republican House and Senate membership vote in lockstep for these positons. Republicans are likely to lose badly for the presidency. Republicans are likely to lose few seats, and may well pick up seats, in the House & Senate.

    Can these statements all be true at the same time? Only if Democrats let it happen. I've learned through long experience never to underestimate the ability of Democrats to f-ck things up. But (some days at least) I'm getting optimistic not only that Republicans really have, en masse, alienated nearly every segment of the electorate, but that Democrats have finally evolved the discipline and cojones to remind voters regularly, continuously, and convincingly of what Republicans stand for.

  • It's pathetic because you are tracking races between two dead parties. But, then again, that makes me pathetic too. Wish so badly we could start talking about some viable third parties….

  • baldheadeddork says:

    I think the chances for the Democrats increased greatly when the GOP made the Ryan Medicare bill the position of the entire party. It's going to be impossible for any Republican candidate to win the nomination without a full-throated endorsement of the Ryan plan, but that's going to make them severely damaged at best in the general. If they couldn't hold on to NY-29, there's no way in hell they're winning Florida.

    But when I take a step back, the Republicans look like an addict who has lost the ability to see the dose that could kill them. They could have, should have, won at least a tie of the Senate last year but they didn't because they couldn't control the base in Nevada, Delaware and Connecticut. With pseudo-Dems like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman that would have effectively given them control of the Congress. It was an epic missed opportunity.

    So what do they do in the aftermath? They dial up the crazy everywhere. They vote overwhelmingly for the Ryan bill in both Chambers even though it has zero chance of ever passing the Senate. They allow nutjob governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida define what the party stands for and set off a race to the bottom in approval ratings. They launch a blitzkreig against women's reproductive rights in the US House and every state where they control the legislature, making it their real #1 issue and racing far beyond where most Americans stand.

    And now they start their Presidential nomination. I believe that anyone who thinks another moderate like Huntsman or Romney will eventually win the nomination like McCain has forgotten or missed the outrage in the conservative base when that happened. The true believers and their puppetmasters were furious over how someone they saw as a RINO ended up with the Republican nomination and then how the establishment GOP treated Palin during the general. That was their never again moment, and it has driven the Republican party in every election since. 2012 isn't going to be different. Either the Republicans nominate someone the Tea Party can fully endorse, or they will run their own candidate.

    What should be a very tough year for Obama and the Democrats could be a blowout because the Republicans are hell bent on choosing unelectable candidates running on unelectable positions.

  • Monkey Business says:

    @baldheadeddork: I agree with your assessment. My faith in the American electorate is shaky at best, but even I believe the Democrats are capable of hammering the GOP for the next year and a half on the remarkable amount of dumb shit they've been doing lately.

    If you give a man a gun, and you give him one bullet, he's probably going to miss. Now, if you give that same man 17 bullets, he'll probably hit the target at least once.

    The GOP has queued up a staggering amount of policies that somehow manage to offend virtually everyone in America. They're anti-union, anti-poor, anti-women, anti-elderly, anti-young, anti-middle age, anti-gay, anti-immigrant… The list just keeps going. The only people the GOP hasn't introduced a policy to harm are rich straight white men, and there just aren't that many of them.

    What should be an electoral sweep by the GOP in 2012 could turn in to an unimaginable disaster for them. Remember that all those Tea Party congresspeople are coming up for reelection in the House, and could be easily swept away by having Obama on the ballot.

  • I believe the Democrats are capable of hammering the GOP for the next year and a half on the remarkable amount of dumb shit they've been doing lately.

    If only they would. I am not at all optimistic that the Democrats will seize this opportunity. They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    I shudder in fear that Pleather Wilson will win the race to replace Bingaman in NM. She is Dick Cheney's bestest friend ever and tight in with Rove as well. We really don't need any more of that shit.

  • Re Dems losing the Senate:

    I can't help wonder if this won't be a case of Obama shooting himself in the foot–by adopting the Repub narrative that it's all about debt, instead of concentrating on what's really important to people: jobs and the economy.

    I think his failure to deal with this will cause an angry, frightened and disillusioned electorate to vote Repub in 2012. So even if he wins the Presidency, his hands will effectively be tied–and I think it will be his own fault.

    I know some of you have more radical ideas about Obama, but I guess I was an optimist. However, his apparent unwillingness to fight on key issues, and his readiness to adopt Repub narratives make me wonder if he isn't a DINO–or a "Wall Street Democrat."

  • @PWL:
    I like "Wall Street Democrat." It works if you don't remember the Rockefeller Republicans, and means roughly the same thing. That's what Barry is, or has effectively become. And yet, the center has moved so far to the fringe right that half the country squeals like a bunch of piglets about the reckless, radical Weatherman in the White House.

  • The Moar You Know says:

    "Wish so badly we could start talking about some viable third parties…"

    There aren't any. So let's drop the pipe dream and start dealing with the reality of the situation, rather than wishing and hoping for something that does not exist.

  • "Scott Brown must run for a full term in Massachusetts, and in a presidential election year his odds are not good …"

    Except that the local media allow him to get away with horseshit sophistry like attacking the House GOP budget for defunding Planned Parenthood after he voted for it, and endorsing the Ryan Plan until it became sufficiently clear what an albatross around the neck it was, whereupon he boldly voted against it (If Harry Reid had followed through on his vote threat promptly, Brown might have been trapped by his pre-shitstorm endorsement). And even some Massachusetts Democratic politicians can't seem to stop publicly licking Scott's ass. All while the national party keeps beating up on the couple of guys who have dared to, you know, actually start running. Apparently, everyone's supposed to wait until the last moment, whereupon the party bosses can anoint Martha Coakley's less-charismatic second cousin, then everyone can declare the seat a Democratic lock and go home. So I actually predict that Scott Brown keeps his job, because Dems are incompetent and enough voters are stupid.

    Also, if it's looking too hot in the primary kitchen, Snowe will probably simply run as an independent, since early polling shows her winning hypothetical three-way matchups.

    On the other hand, Bill Nelson was looking surprisingly good even before Republicans embraced the complete destruction of Medicare. Sherrod Brown's numbers have improved steadily as Ohio Republicans have run around stomping puppies to death for fun. The current climate in Wisconsin has become more favorable for Democrats, though nominating Tammy Baldwin might be overly optimistic. And so far, Klobuchar wins walking away in prospective match-ups.

    All that said, the Senate was the place where progressive House legislation went to die even when the Dem majority was much larger. And Senate Republicans have demonstrated that apparently no one else will be confirmed for any position of consequence for the rest of Obama's time in office. So the main danger I see in the Senate flipping control is that more batshit stuff will be passed by reconciliation and not vetoed by the White House, because it was pre-negotiated downward from twice as batshit.

  • Acer, I guess it IS the same thing. Thanks to the fact the the "Overton Window" has successfully been moved so far to the right by the Repubs, a Rockefeller Republican would now be considered a dangerous lib-rul…

  • @TMYK:
    As much as I hate you for it (roughly 0.002% as much as I hate the Democrats), you're right.

    The Greens are est-seminar rejects. The Libertarians are… Wait for it! Far-right Republicans. (Introduce me to one LP member who would end the drug war or the PATRIOT Act if it meant raising taxes on the Koches and Soroses of the world.)

    Pending an ego trip from an eccentric billionaire, we're truly stuck with this shit.

  • Acer:

    Do I have to be a dues payin', card carryin' member of the LP? I have voted for LP candidates for local offices in GA.

    * End the WOD, fer sure – check
    * should not have had an extension on the P.A. – check

    I am too dense to get the connection to raising taxes on the Uber-rich relative to the above issues. ??? I believe tax increases are going to happen on everybody when we pull out of the dive.


  • @bb:

    Ending the Bush tax cuts and cutting "defense" would solve our budget problems many times over. So why does Paul Ryan care about welfare and the NEA?

    Freedom doesn't work if it's only for the rich. America isn't a free land that must be maintained as-is – it's a dictatorship of the dollar. The WOD and the PATRIOT Act help fund the Bush tax cuts. Real libertarianism gets a bunch of Brawndo-drinking out-of-work prison guards and TSA goons thirsy for blue blood. The status quo gets us few happy billionaires. "Libertarians" prefer the latter, because, obvs, SOCIALISM.

  • For more information, Google "end corporate welfare." And realize that libertarians are all for it, until the fucking chips are down, at which point they, to a person, magically transform into Sean Hannity.

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