Elephant Rising: 10 Reasons the GOP Will Gain Senate Seats in 06
Conventional wisdom is that the Democrats will cut into, but not erase the current 55-45 (counting Jeffords) advantage Republicans hold in the Senate in this November's elections. Their inability to mount a filibuster to stop the confirmation of Justice Alito highlighted once again their position of weakness...and their desire to change it. Traditionally the incumbent President's party has lost seats in the 6th year election. Polls show high disapproval ratings for Congress, and the Republicans in particular. Yet in spite of all that I believe the stars may be aligning for the Republicans to actually increase their margin in the Senate. In no particular order, here are ten factors which augur well for the Republican Party.
1) How-weird Dean. The DNC Chairman is a gift that keeps on giving for the Republicans. It's hard to think of a public character with less control over his mouth since Curtis LeMay. As one of the public faces of the Democratic Party, Dean's loose lips, poor strategic judgment and record of profligate spending are a big plus for the GOP. YEEARRGGH!
2) NSA Surveillance (Part 1). The Dem's decision to join their allies in the liberal media in whacking the President for being too zealous in his attempt to defend us from further terrorist attacks is lousy politics. They're opening themselves up to the same devastating attack that killed them in 2002--they're simply not serious about security, and as a result, a lot of people will hold their noses and vote Republican who otherwise would not.
3) NSA Surveillance (Part 2). There is a significant possiblity that one or more Democratic Senators (yes, Jay Rockefeller, I'm talking about you) may be involved in leaking the story to the New York Times. If this does prove to be the case, the entire party will be (properly) tarred with a very ugly brush.
4) Judges. The disgraceful performance of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee during the Alito hearings are part of a much larger and long-term pattern of bad behavior that has bitten them before. (Yes, Tom Daschle, I'm talking about you.) The Republican base will not forget, especially if the pattern continues between now and then. The prospect of a further Supreme Court appointment, given the age and health of the Court's most liberal members, will further energize the conservative voting block.
5) The Patriot Act. On both a practical and political basis, opposition to the Patriot Act is a loser. A measure passed by a vote of 98-1 in 2001 that has not had one single credible story of misuse or abuse of anyone (no, Ted Kennedy, a lie made up by a college student about the Sayings of Chairman Mao doesn't count) has no reason to be opposed. The clip of Harry Reid surrounded by the Senate Dem leadership grinning broadly and saying "We killed the Patriot Act" is going to be featured in a lot of campaign commercials this fall, to devastating effect.
6) 9/11 Anniversary. Two months before the elections will be the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack. Memories of that terrible day, and five years of evidence about which party takes it seriously, and there is only one, will play a major factor in many races (see note on New Jersey below).
7) Open Republican seats. The only open seat where Republicans are in a close race is Tennessee, where the feckless Bill Frist is (thankfully) retiring. Polls show the race close right now, but the voting trends of the state make this a very doubtful switch. NET CHANGE--none.
8) Vulnerable Republican seats. There are four--Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Talent should hang on in Missouri, and Burns may well be replaced in Montana by the popular represenative Denny Rehburg, who would easily hold the seat. I hope the human waffle (Chafee) loses Rhode Island. That leaves Pennsylvania. Santorum has closed the gap from nearly 20 points down to "just" 10. Bob Casey is a well-known name in the state, but a lousy campaigner and Santorum does know how close. The candidacy of Lynn Swann for governor may be just enough to pull him over the top. (Dems would like to include Arizona on this list, but that's beyond wishful into delusional. Kyl will win in a walk.) NET CHANGE--minus one GOP.
9) Open Democratic seats. Minnesota and Maryland are two traditionally blue states. But the Republicans have two outstanding candidates in Mark Kennedy (MN) and Michael Steele (MD). The Democrats are so afraid of Steele that it was his files that Credit Check Chuck's people were digging in. Throw in the gay marriage debate in Maryland and the Infume imbroglio, and Steele has a real shot. The Socialist (his label, not mine) Bernie Sanders will probably win Jumpin Jim Jeffords' flopped seat in Vermont. NET CHANGE--plus two GOP.
10) Vulnerable Democratic seats. New Jersey, where Menendez was appointed by the the corrupt Democrat machine led by Jon Corzine, is home to Sam Alito, and has a huge Italian-American population. Menendez' vote against Alito combined with the candidacy of popular Tom Kean Jr will join with the 9/11 fifth anniversary to make this another potential GOP gain. In addition, weak first-termers Cantwell (WA) and Stabenow (MI), and the longtime Senator and former Klansman Robert Byrd (WV) are all facing tough, well-funded opponents [UPDATE: A linker points out what I had forgotten, that Domino's CEO David Brandon has decided not to run against Stabenow in Michigan. So her opponent is not well-funded.] and while all could win, a loss by any of them would not be a huge shock. I think the elephants grab at least one of these (for the good of the nation and our aching ears, I hope it's Byrd.) Both Nelsons (FL and NE) will probably win, due to Republican failure to recruit first-class challengers against them, even in two very red states. NET CHANGE--plus two GOP.
Overall NET CHANGE--plus three GOP. This analysis does represent a best-case scenario for the Republicans, but it is not at all out of the realm of possiblity, and would represent a huge change from what conventional wisdom is calling for.