60 Revolutions

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Michael Barone combs through this year's Senate races and predicts a Democratic floor of 56 seats, with five toss-up races in Republican-held seats: Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon, North Carolina, and Georgia.

What's my bottom line? If I had to bet $1,000 on each of these races, I would bet on [Oregon's Gordon] Smith and [North Carolina's Elizabeth] Dole to lose, and [Minnesota's Norm] Coleman, [Georgia's Saxby] Chambliss, and [Kentucky's Mitch] McConnell to win. That, assuming Sununu doesn't somehow pull it out, would leave the Democrats with 58 seats. (But I could easily be wrong on any or all of these races, and I reserve the right to change my prediction before Tuesday.) Fifty-eight Democrats would be enough to stop filibusters if they can get a couple of Republicans (and not drop any Democrats) on an issue, but not enough to run the table.

The thing is they probably would be able to pull in enough Republicans to pass the Obama agenda. Fifty-eight seats would be the biggest majority any party has had in 30 years, and that was a Democratic conference that included a lot of conservatives. In 2010 there will be 18 Republican seats on the ballot, a reflection of the great year that the party had in 2004. Sen. Arlen Specter is one of them, so not only is he pro-choice and pro-Employee Free Choice Act, he'll be girding for an epic battle in a state that's getting more and more Democratic. Sen. David "Ask me about my sex with prostitutes" Vitter is another one. Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has survived a number of tight contests, but his state is poised for the biggest Democratic landslide since 1964.

At the same time… it's not hard to imagine an unpopular Democratic presidency inspiring a bunch of strong Republicans to run to take back a majority. But where? Maybe they can Daschleize Harry Reid in Nevada. Maybe Schwarzenegger will run in California, Huckabee in Arkansas, and Gov. Hoeven in North Dakota. Maybe 86-year old Daniel Inuoye retires in Hawaii and Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, runs to replace him. Hey, Republicans picked up eight seats in 1994. Democrats picked up six in 2006.

The question is whether Obama is more like Bill Clinton or like Ronald Reagan. Clinton stumbled into the culture wars, broke a tax cut pledge, and botched health care reform, and strategy-minded Republicans could see the path back to power. Reagan presided over a terrible recession and threatened Medicare cuts, yet his party held the line in the Senate in 1982 (while losing seats in the House.) Obama's people must have studied these two examples and know that getting the big accomplishments out of the way first (like Reagan's tax cuts, not like Clinton and Don't Ask, Don't Tell) and charming the hell out of the country can mitigate losses even if voters grow sour by the midterms.

We'll get a tiny, confusing sense of how this will play out if the Georgia Senate race isn't decisive. Libertarian Alan Buckley is polling well enough in Georgia that neither the Democrat nor Republican could crack 50 percent of the vote and the state might go to a runoff.

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  1. If Elizabeth Dole goes down, I’m throwing a party.
    She’s such a B

  2. Oregon will stay, NC will go, the others are a toss. That title reminded me of the coolest song: 78 Revolutions a Minute…

    Stiff Little Fingers

  3. Fifty-eight seats would be the biggest majority any party has had in 30 years

    It’s worth pointing out too that the last time the Dems had a similar majority, they reduced the filibuster requirement from 66 to 60. So even if they don’t get to 60, they might just change it to 55 or something.

  4. Reagan and Obama took/will take office as part of a national realignment towards their parties.

    Clinton took office despite an ongoing realignment towards the Republicans.

    I think people overstate the revolutionary nature of the 1994 and 2006 midterms, overemphasizing the role of specific, dramatic events to the detriment of ongoing but gradual movements in the electorate.

  5. Oregon will stay, NC will go.

    I think Smith’s going down in Oregon. It’s a vote-by-mail state and Merkley, the Dem, moved ahead at just the right time. I agree with Barone’s projections except that I think Minnesota is just crazy enough to elect Franken, especially while Obama is landsliding at the top of the ticket.

  6. I’m not ruling out Sununu, even as New Hampshire is turning blue at a swift clip.

    He’s a better politician than Shaheen, and more charismatic, and he’s run some very good ads.

  7. If the GA Senate race goes to a runoff Chambliss wins.The Dems would be at a severe turnout disadvantage.

  8. I think Minnesota is just crazy enough to elect Franken

    The X-factor in Minnesota is Dean Barkley, polling at around 19%. I expect that when the final results come in, he’ll finish much higher than that. Whoever wins the Minnesota Senate race is going to do it with about 40% of the vote. I’m not sure how to call this one since everyone I know is voting Barkley. There is no buzz of Coleman or Franken at all.

  9. Looks like Dole’s nice little appeal to religious bigotry has her going down. She’s put herself on my permanent sh*t list along with Inhofe, Jean Schmidt, William Jefferson and Al Sharpton, among a bunch of others.

    I’m giving Franken a slight edge, which makes 57 plus two independents.

  10. “If Elizabeth Dole goes down”

    not once in her life, I’d bet

  11. Interesting point, SIV. How many people who turned out to vote for Obama and voted D in the Senate race will not bother going back?

    Then again, how many people who turned out to vote AGAINST Obama and also voted for the R in the Senate race will do the same thing?

    And then there’s the question of whether Obama’s organization will keep going, but be dedicated to the Senate runoff.

  12. Who would Barkley caucus with in the Senate, New World Dan? Has he said?

  13. Interesting point, SIV. How many people who turned out to vote for Obama and voted D in the Senate race will not bother going back?

    A lot of then

    Then again, how many people who turned out to vote AGAINST Obama and also voted for the R in the Senate race will do the same thing?

    Not as many

    And then there’s the question of whether Obama’s organization will keep going, but be dedicated to the Senate runoff.

    Obama has an organization in GA?

    There would be so much more at stake for Republicans/Conservatives than Democrats in a runoff they would win the turnout battle.

    Obama himself could hand out the walking around money and drive people to the polls and the Dems still lose a runoff.

  14. Dave,

    Changing the filibuster requirement is subject to changing the rules, which requires 2/3 of those present to vote in the affirmative.

    Unless the Democrats are going to pull a “nuclear option”-type stunt, you have nothing to worry about with respect to filibusters unless Republicans vote to decrease their power to block legislation.

  15. If you don’t realize that Obama has the largest campaign presence in Georgia of any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, SIV, you might not be getting the whole picture.

  16. joe,

    That isn’t an “organization”. Obama won’t be on the runoff ballot. There is no “history” to be made in voting for Jim Martin in a runoff.
    If this was an off year election Chambliss wouldn’t be in trouble.Runoffs produce way lower turnout than off year elections.

  17. SIV, Georgia is rated as a “toss up” on RCP.

  18. http://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2008/10/obama-for-president-tom-smith.html

    Some may say, and you call yourself a libertarian. But I have decided I can be a kind of statist, big government, expansive regulation, high taxing, low investing, industrial policy, aggressive PC enforcing sort of libertarian. If you look at libertarians for Obama, I would hardly be the first.

  19. What kind of sissyboy name is Saxby Chambliss?

  20. Some may say, and you call yourself a libertarian. But I have decided I can be a kind of statist, big government, expansive regulation, high taxing, low investing, industrial policy sort of libertarian. If you look at libertarians for McCain, I would hardly be the first.

  21. Obama won’t be on the runoff ballot. There is no “history” to be made in voting for Jim Martin in a runoff.

    But I’m talking about his staff, his media operation, his turnout operation, the volunteers, the lists…all the infrastructure of a modern campaign.

    What kind of sissyboy name is Saxby Chambliss?

    Rep. Michelle Bachman is about to lose an election to a guy named “Elwyn Tinklenberg.”

    Ha ha! And she’s hawt.

  22. Republicans picked up eight seats in 1994.

    And credited a lot of that to Clinton’s “assault weapon” ban. Obama’s likely to do much worse, unless he’s smarter than I think.

    80,000,000 gun owhers.

  23. From inside Oregon, my intuition says Smith actually wins again.

    I think that as the election draws closer and Obama has wrapped the state up, folks are realizing that a split government may actually get nothing done. Inaction at the federal level is generally in the citizens best interest.

    That, and Jeff Merkley is a spend-happy tool.

  24. joe sez:

    Reagan and Obama took/will take office as part of a national realignment towards their parties.

    In all fairness, the Dems have done a good job of going big-tent. There’s a lot of really conservative Democrats being elected now, in states previously dominated by the GOP.

    So it’s not so much that the nation is changing their beliefs, the Dems are just adjusting their policies. Which makes me wonder what the point is of talking about filibusters anyway. These newcomers are what can be called Democrats-In-Name-Only, and might actually vote in lock-step with a lot of Republicans.

  25. There’s a lot of really conservative Democrats being elected now, in states previously dominated by the GOP.

    Yes, there are. There are also a lot of liberal and progressive Democrats being elected in areas that perviously leaned GOP or were tightly fought.

    It’s an across the board movement, not the marginal one you’re supposing.

  26. Who would Barkley caucus with in the Senate, New World Dan? Has he said?

    I expect he’ll caucus with the Independance Party. It’ll probably be a lonely caucus. Did he caucus with anyone during his previous stint (2 months) in the Senate?

  27. How’s about we get through the 2008 elections before we start handicapping 2010?

    One of the best things about the election being over will (hopefully) be a reduction in the number of H&R threads devoted to horseraces between equally loathsome parties and candidates.

  28. There are also a lot of liberal and progressive Democrats being elected…

    Joe: names, please. I’m not trying to get down on you, I’m honestly curious about what areas are changing in various ways.

  29. Of course, Smith is a spend-happy tool too.

  30. I have never seen a so-called libertarian (Weigel) so infatuated with a Democratic presidential candidate (Obama). Assuming that the man has studied Reagan and Clinton? While, I assume he already knows everything since he’s the messiah. Try to top that.

  31. Also, INHO, Buckley sending the Georgia race to a runoff is a positive thing for Republicans and divided government. It may be the thing that keeps the Dems from getting 60.

    I’m just imagining the runoff, after the election, in a conservative state, with Dems sitting at 59 and one away from the magical 60. There’s no way Saxby doesn’t win that.

  32. ellipsis,

    Off the top of my head, look at New Hampshire and Connecticut.

  33. Maybe this is a matter of semantics. Do you mean “more liberal than before” or “absolute liberal.”

    I’d consider Jeanne Shaheen a moderate; and Ned Lamont lost to Joe Lieberman.

    This could just be a debate on individual POV, though; you could be seeing six whereas I see a half dozen. Interesting food for thought.

  34. There are also a lot of liberal and progressive Democrats being elected in areas that perviously leaned GOP or were tightly fought.

    This is the kind of counter-intuitive claim that calls for a link. But, since joe is making this claim, I won’t hold my breath.

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