Whether Obama bashing, teeth gnashing, tea party crashing, or GOP trashing—it’s time for progressives to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. There be elections here! (Yes, I’m a trekkie.) And we have a chance to create a REAL 60 vote majority in the senate.
One-third of the Senate is up for re-election this year—18 Dem seats and 18 GOP seats. All seats, however, are not created equal. CQ Politics draws the electoral map this way. They predict Dems will lose one seat in the senate. That would turn the current senate boondoggle into a virtual deadlock.
Fortunately, there’s another way to look at the landscape. With help from motivated supporters, Dems might have a chance to take more seats away from the GOP. And that would mean a real working majority in the Senate. What a concept!
Which senators are up for reelection in 2010?
There are three categories of open seats: (1) incumbents, (2) retirements, and (3) place holders.
WIth the announcements from Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan, the number of retirement seats went up by two this week. The retirements:
Chris Dodd, CT (D)
Byron Dorgan, ND (D)
Sam Brownback, KS (R)
Kit Bond, MO (R)
Judd Gregg, NH (R)
George Voinovich, OH (R)
There’s a good chance that the increasingly liberal politics in New Hampshire and Ohio will give Democratic challengers an opening, especially if progressives are motivated in those states. Kansas gave us Kathleen Sebelius, so who knows what could happen there? And with Kit Bond’s ethics problems, perhaps the citizens of the Show Me state will give democrats an opportunity to show what they can do with a functioning majority.
On the Democratic side, the senate race in North Dakota could turn out to be a repeat of the Al Franken race in Minnesota—only with Ed Schultz. If Ed can get himself into the Senate, we would have some very interesting legislative sessions. (UPDATE: Schultz has indicated on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown that he is not interested, but he did not shut the door all the way.) And what of Chris Matthews and his hinting at the Connecticut seat? It’s hard to know what to say about that. Most analysts agree, however, that with Dodd out of the running as the incumbent, Dems have a much better chance of retaining this seat.
The most interesting group of seats up for grabs, in my humble opinion, are the place holders—vacancies filled by gubernatorial appointment, usually after the occupant has moved on to better things. Sadly, one of these seats was left open last year by Teddy Kennedy. Place holders are often seen as wild cards, but we have good reason to be optimistic about these elections in 2010.
Ted Kaufman for Joe Biden, DE (D)
Roland Burris for Barack Obama, IL (D)
Kirsten Gillibrand for Hillary Clinton, NY
Paul Kirk for Ted Kennedy, MA (D) to be held January 19
George LeMieux for Mel Martinez, FL (R)
Michael Bennett for Kent Salazar, CO (R)
Mel Martinez made it pretty clear that the teabagger activity within the GOP was not to his taste. Not at all. Which suggests we’re in for another New York congressional district 23 -type primary in Florida. If the Tea Party knocks out Charlie Cris, the Dem challenger has a better than even chance of becoming Florida’s next senator.
Last, but certainly not least, the incumbents:
Blanche Lincoln, AK
Barbara Boxer, CA
Daniel Inouye, HA
Evan Bayh, IN
Barbara Mikulski, MD
Harry Reid, NV
Chuck Schumer, NY
Ron Wyden, OR
Arlen Specter, PA
Patrick Leahy, VT
Patty Murray, WA
Russ Feingold, WI
Richard Shelby, AL
Lisa Murkowski, AK
John McCain, AZ
Johnny Isakson, GA
Mike Crapo, ID
Chuck Grassley, IA
Jim Bunning, KY
David Vitter, LA
Richard Burr, NC
Tom Coburn, OK
Jim DeMint, SC
John Thune, SD
Bob Bennett, UT
Roll Call ran an article in 2008 forecasting problems the GOP was likely to have in the 2010 senate races. Some of what they had to say has come to pass, although not exactly in the way Roll Call predicted. The GOP did lose Arlen Specter, but not through retirement. Kit Bond, Mel Martinez, and Voinovich are not only vulnerable, but entirely out of the picture. Revisiting Roll Call’s predictions, Dems might have reason to be optimistic about the Jim Bunning and David Vitter races.
Finally, no political forecasting exercise would be complete without a mention of Nate Silver, whose uncanny statistical work on the 2008 presidential election has become legendary. Silver’s analysis of senate outcomes should buoy the left all the way through the election cycle. He has posted this analysis on FiveThirtyEight, showing a net gain of two seats for the Democrats.
So, let the media talking heads continue to forecast gloom and doom. The field looks promising, notwithstanding. And if progressives and liberals stay motivated, get involved, and get to work, we might just end up with a senate that can push through the president’s ambitious agenda.
Note: Corrections welcome.