Sunday, February 6, 2011

Four Reasons the Dems Lose the Senate in 2012

Going into the final week of the 2010 midterm campaign, it was obvious the Republicans were going to win the House of Representatives in shocking numbers. It wasn't "if" they would win, only by "how much?"

I harbored hope the same thing would happen in the Senate, but at the end two narrow victories and two "surprises" preserved the 52-48 majority for the Democrats. Chistine O'Donnell in Delaware proved a big disappointment to the tea partiers, but her loss was not one of the surprises.

The two narrow victories came in Colorado and Washington. Recounts settled both those states and they went to the Democrats. The two surprises happened in Nevada and West Virginia, when the Republican candidates faltered down the stretch though they had led earlier, preserving Harry Reid's seat and the old seat vacated by the death of Robert Byrd.

I am optimistic (but not yet convinced) the Republicans can retain the House and regain the Senate, but they will have a shot at it only if they can now demonstrate their will to bow to the expressed will of the people to put our national house of fiscal responsibility in order. The reason it's dicey is the Republicans have not proven to be any better than the Democrats in reining in spending in recent years. It's got to change, and they will have one last shot at it.

That's JOB ONE. They will not retain the confidence of the voters unless they succeed with that.

However, with that one caveat attached to my assessment, 2012 shapes up as a better chance for success at retaking the Senate than this last election. The Constitution provides for a turnover every two years of one-third of the Senate seats. The last several years have brought several new faces into the two houses of Congress. I suspect that trend to continue unabated.

There are four good reasons why:

1. The states up for seats in 2012 offer more "red" possibilities than the blue ones. Here are the states to watch as the 2012 election season swings into high gear. Switching seats in North Dakota, Florida, Nebraska, Virginia and Montana will put the Republicans in control by 52 - 48, and there are good reasons to suspect that might be the case.

2. Retirement announcements continue to pour in. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has announced he will not run again. Jim Webb (D-VA) has been vocally cool and coy about his enthusiasm for the Obama agenda, and hasn't been raising money for his re-election bid. George Allen has come out with his announcement to oppose Webb if he runs, and the smart money says it will be enough to get Webb to drop out. Herbert Kohl (D-WI) may also decide not to run (he's in his eighties now). Former Senator Russ Feingold may decide to challenge Kohl in a primary, and if he does Kohl may just hang it up. It's in the "hopeful" category for Republicans because they picked up the governorship in Wisconsin, both houses in the state legislature, a Senate seat and more House seats in 2010. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) will both face tough races in 2012 from stronger Republican candidates. Neither may run because of the strong opposition against the Democrats in 2010.

3. I heard Dick Morris, Clinton's former strategist (turned traitor against the Clintonistas) handicapping the Senate races in an interview last week. According to Morris, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) may sit it out in 2012 after watching New Mexico go Republican in 2010. John Tester (D-MT) won by less than 1 point in 2006, and should be an easy target for someone in red Montana. So now you can put North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia and Montana in the "highly likely" column for Republican victories in 2012.

4. In the "good possibility" column pencil in whoever opposes either Kohl or Feingold in Wisconsin. Morris goes on to speculate Bob Casey (D-PA) can be beaten, as well as Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Bill Nelson (D-FA) probably won't win again, and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will likely lose to former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman. Republicans will also have a good shot against Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Joe Manchin (D-WV) faces mounting scandals, and his failure to make good on his promise to "vote like a Republican" may cost him his seat. New Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) is making big waves in that state since his victory in November, and when one looks out to 2012, Bob Menendez (D-NJ) who suffers from lack of moral turpitude (I'm being kind) could be easy pickings.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Of course, here in Utah a Republican "hold" is virtually a lock. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), currently the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, is a 36-year veteran of the Senate from the "reddest state" in the Union. He is building his re-election bid on the hope the Republicans WILL indeed win the majority in the Senate, making him the de facto incoming Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 2012. He's leading the way again by proposing (for the 17th time in his storied Senate career) a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. If ever there were a time for it, that time has finally come.

There's absolutely no threat of the Utah senate seat going Democrat, but Hatch faces the almost impossible uphill battle against his age and longevity. No one in the history of Utah has been elected to the Senate who would be as old as Hatch (78) on election day 2012. He's popping up everywhere in the social media as he tries to connect with his constituents. He's never lost an election! Even Abraham Lincoln can't say that!

He's much more formidable than Bob Bennett, but there are many who believe despite his strengths he can be taken down. All it will take is the right replacement candidate, so watch for those who emerge from within the ranks of the Republicans to challenge him. As good as Hatch has been, the people are whispering, "Enough is enough, Orrin." They would prefer that he bow out gracefully now and make way for a younger generation. But it won't happen. Hatch is determined to set some longevity records and damn the torpedoes.

If he is re-elected (and it's still a big IF), he will have served 42 years of his 84 years at the end of his next term as a U.S. Senator. Love him or loathe him he's got proven staying power, but there will be many challengers on the Republican side who will hope to repeat Mike Lee's stunning defeat of Bob Bennett in 2010.

It's still too early to handicap any of these races just yet, but it's fun to speculate.

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