2010 Senate Race Update

2010 Senate Race Update


Justin asked “How will Repubs do in 2010?” Tully comments “it’s an exercise in fantasy to make predictions this far out”. Sage advice, but per the popular idiom – “Fools rush in…”

While I agree that polls are meaningless from this distance, insight into the election can be gleaned from structural issues. Shortly after the November election, I posted an analysis on the prospect of restoring divided government in 2010 or 2012. This summary/conclusion paraphrased from that post:

After the 2008 election the Democrats picked up an additional 21 seats and will have a crushing 82+ seat majority in the House. Given the difficulty of changing majorities in the House, there is almost no likelihood of a Republican majority in the house before 2014 and probably longer (even with a hurricane force political tailwind, the Democrats only picked up 21 seats in ’08 – do the math). That leaves the Senate as the only determinant of whether divided government can be restored in 2010. In 2012, either re-taking the Senate or the presidency are possibilities for restoring divided government, as the house will likely remain out of reach…

Conclusion / Predictions

  • We will have One Party Rule under the Democrats for at least four years.
  • The next opportunity to restore divided government will be in 2012.
  • The Republicans will have two ways to get there, so I will go out on a limb and make the prediction that divided government will be restored in 2012, either through the Republicans winning the presidency or (more likely) a majority in the Senate. If the latter, we will be in the interesting situation that we have a divided congress, and regardless of which party wins the presidency – a divided government. That’s a good thing.
  • No telling what shape the country will be in by then.
  • I stand by the overall thesis, but all the results were not in and a few things have changed. Time for an update.

    First, based on the completely insane deficit spending in the first six months of Single Party Democratic Rule, we now have an answer to the last bullet. We will be in very sorry economic shape by the 2012 election, with a debased currency, high inflation, and possibly eclipsed by the more capital friendly China as the pre-eminent economic engine on the planet.

    Second, there have been some changes in the structural elements of the 2010 Senate races. Republican Arlen Specter changed his party affiliation, and the Missouri race was finally decided. With Al Franken now in the Senate, there are 60 Senators who caucus Democrat and 40 Senators who caucus Republican. With special elections in New York to replace Hillary Clinton and in Delaware to replace Joe Biden, we now have 36 Senate seats up for grabs in 2010, with 18 held by Republicans and 18 held by Democrats.

    Perversely, the Republican hand in 2010 was strengthened by their unrelenting poor performance in 2008. Instead of defending 19 of 34 seats as outlined in my previous post, they are defending 18 of 36 seats, exactly like the Democrats, and on a structurally even playing field in 2010. They are in far too deep a hole to have any chance of retaking the Senate majority in 2010, but (despite Justin’s snark) if they can take 2 or 3 seats, it will be a big win and they will be in an excellent position to retake the Senate in 2012 when they have significant structural factors in their favor.

    The Senate remains the best chance to divide this government in 2012. While Barack Obama’s poll numbers have predictably eroded from the stratospheric level he enjoyed earlier in the year, he still has a deep reservoir of goodwill and personal popularity with voters. He is personable, likable, smart, and as Joe Biden noted“clean and articulate”. Predictions three years out are indeed foolish, but barring some as of yet unrevealed scandal close to the President, I expect he will be reelected.

    Net net – The best chance to restore fiscal rationality in 2012 is for Republicans to take the Senate, and that will take two election cycles. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and the first step is for Republicans to pick up a couple of seats in 2010.

    Two Senate races have peaked my early interest.

    Pat Toomey is a solid fiscal conservative. His primary challenge to Arlen Specter is widely attributed to be the reason Specter changed his party affiliation. Ironically, if Specter survives a Democratic Party primary challenge, he could still easily lose to Toomey in the general election. I like Toomey’s chances. I like what he says about divided government. And I really like the way he acquitted himself in a laughably hostile Hardball appearance on Tuesday August 4:

    Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

    I guess Chris Matthews thinks birthers are a litmus test for the GOP. Or something. You’ve got me.

    Another campaign of interest – Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s Connecticut seat. I had some positive things to say about Chris Dodd during his brief presidential run. That was then. This is now. A lot of questions emerged about his close relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, a sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide Financial and cozy relationships with banking lobbyists. This is a race that should be a slam dunk and a safe seat for Democrats, but is now up for grabs. Recent polls show that Dodd is trailing former Republican congressman Rob Simmons. Simmons would be a fine choice. But there is another interesting challenger in Connecticut. Money manager and economic soothsayer Peter Schiff is also considering a run for this seat.

    I describe myself as a “libertarian leaning independent”. There are few libertarian voices in our federal government. Ron Paul serves that function in the House of Representatives. We could use a libertarian voice in the Senate and Peter Schiff could be that voice. I have no idea whether he has a chance, but he’s got money, and I’d like to see him run. He certainly will make the campaign more interesting, as well as inject ideas into the national political dialog that otherwise may never emerge above noise level.

    Schiff took a page from the Ron Paul campaign and his “moneybomb” effort today is showing pretty impressive results thus far for a Senatorial campaign:

    Maybe we will get that libertarian voice in the Senate.

    x-posted from Divided We Stand United We Fall

    • Mike A.

      “Net net – The best chance to restore fiscal rationality in 2012 is for Republicans to take the Senate, and that will take two election cycles. ”

      Yep. History shows that we’ve had a good dose of republican fiscal rationality in the past.

      So which republicans will show up? Fiscal conservatives or social conservatives? To date it appears these two are mutually exclusive.

    • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

      I have been equally critical of the big spending, big deficit, big government Single Party Republican Rule. That is not what I am advocating. I am advocating the only state that has definitively been shown historically to restrain the growth of federal spending. Divded Government. A Republican Senate is the only path there.

    • Mike A.

      I hope you are right. I would celebrate the return of traditional conservatives.

    • TerenceC


      Although I agree with the premise of your post I don’t see anything breaking towards the Republicans before 2014 at the earliest – there’s just no there there. The concept of conservative principles and smaller government can easily be filled by conservative incumbent’s (Blue Dog’s). The power wave is still breaking for incumbents, and the Democratic party can ride it with very little interference for another 3-4 years. Things can change fast in American politics – but counterbalance in the party system isn’t one of them.

    • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

      Obviously, a lot can happen along the way and it is impossible for either of us to know what (or if) external events will shape the next few election cycles. All I’m doing here is to trying to understand the playing field for the next two cycles, in order to find the easiest path to the outcome I prefer, the restoration of divided government.

      “I don’t see anything breaking towards the Republicans before 2014 at the earliest” – TC

      I think you have to look at the legislative and executive branches separately. I’ll agree with your date for the House of Representatives. Despite the entire House being up for re-election every two years, it is the most difficult branch to change the party majority. Representatives have a 95% incumbent re-election rate. As I said in my post, with hurricane force tailwinds, the Dems only picked up 21 of the 435 seats in 2008. With their 80+ seat majority, it is certain that it will take the GOP until 2014 at least and probably longer, even if they chip away every cycle, to win enough to recapture the majority. The House will be Democratic for the foreseeable future.

      The presidency? Who knows what factors will shape that election? At this point, I’ll just grant your point and stipulate the most likely scenario – Obama re-elected.

      The Senate is a different animal. Electoral structural factors slant the playing field enormously and can be more important than popular sentiment. In 2012 the Dems will be defending 24 seats and the GOP 9. In those circumstances, it is certain that the GOP will pick up Senate seats, with the only question – how many? If they can grab a couple seats in 2010, they’ll only need 4 in 2012 to retake the majority. Very very doable. Taking two seats in 2010 is structurally more difficult than taking 4 in 2012. That makes the Senate the path of least resistance to the kind of government I prefer.

    • http://www.stutalk.com blogstutalk

      The presidency? Who knows what factors will shape that election? At this point, I’ll just grant your point and stipulate the most likely scenario – Obama re-elected.