Monday, August 22, 2011

The Senate: Why Winning Isn't Enough

Senate Democrats have some serious problems in November. Not only will they be weighed down by a deeply unpopular Obama and their own vile actions over the past couple years, but they are facing a significant enthusiasm gap. Also, they are defending many more seats. What’s more, their people are choosing to retire rather than fight. So I think winning the Senate is all but assured. But we need more than just winning, and we aren't going to get it.

The key fight in this next election cycle will be the Senate. The Senate is important because it can block most reforms. President GenericRepublican (R) can do a lot of reforming from inside the Executive Branch, but anything like repealing laws, reforming entitlements, or amending the tax code will need to overcome a Senate filibuster. And filibusters aplenty you should expect. . . by the plethora. Indeed, expect the Democrats to filibuster everything because they have no incentive whatsoever to cooperate. So we need 60 seats.

Actually, we need 64 or 65 seats because the Republicans have a RINO problem. But what are the chances of that happening? Frankly, zero. So let's go with 60.

The Republicans currently hold 47 seats. The Democrats hold 53. In 2012, 23 Democratic seats and 10 Republican seats will be up for grabs. Most pollsters say it’s unlikely the Republicans will lose any seats, though I personally predict a surprise loss for Scott Brown in Massachusetts as most of his base in the last election will refuse to turn out. Hence, the Republicans need to win either 13 or 14 out of 23 seats to get to 60.

The problem is, there’s no “roadmap” to get them there, i.e. there just aren’t enough competitive seats. Consider:

Helping the Republicans, six Democrats have decided to quit rather than face re-election. This includes: Joe Lieberman (Conn.), Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), James Webb (Virginia), and Herb Kohl (Wisconsin). Unfortunately, Lieberman’s seat and Akaka’s seat are all but assured to remain Democratic. The other four are considered up for grabs.

Also, depending on who you ask, Democratic seats in Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Michigan, Florida, Ohio and West Virginia are all up for grabs.

So do the math. Eleven total seats are considered up for grabs. That is not enough. Even if we win each seat, we will still be two seats short of 60. What’s more, I don’t think each of these is legitimately up for grabs. Every election we hear about seats in liberal bastions (e.g. Washington state, California, New Jersey) being up for grabs, and every election cycle these turn out to be mirages. This election is no different. I know, for example, from personal experience in the state that Joe Manchin simply cannot be beaten in West Virginia. History tells me that Ben Nelson also will win Nebraska quite easily despite his role in ObamaCare. I also have my doubts about Wisconsin and New Mexico. So I’m thinking that only seven Democratic seats are actually up for grabs. That works out to 54 total seats if we win them all.

Unfortunately, winning only 54 seats would be a disaster. Not only does that mean we can’t stop filibusters, but it also means that our 3-5 seat RINO contingent will hold a lot of power should the Republicans try to achieve anything through reconciliation. That means most (if not all) reform will need to come from the White House. Unfortunately, that all but excludes entitlement and tax reform.

Now, there are some factors that may affect this. For example, Obama’s incredibly low poll numbers suggest a landslide against him, which could mean inverse coattails will drag down the Democratic candidates. There is also some evidence for this in a 6% enthusiasm gap found by the Democratic PPP pollsters. That too could be serious trouble for these Democratic candidates (the 2010 election showed an 8% enthusiasm gap). But I think it’s unlikely this will do anything more than improve our chances of winning the toss up seats.

That’s a little depressing, but it’s better to know the truth and adjust accordingly. Indeed, this tells me that we need to focus much more carefully on what our Presidential candidate has to say about reforming government. . . because the Congress isn’t going to be a lot of help.

38 comments:

Scott said...

Yes, as a citizen of OH I concur--We do have a Rino problem. I would love to see the 17th Ammendment repealed--I don't think that it was properly enacted to begin with. States should directly admit Senators, not by majority rule. But I am a dreamer. We need to dispose of the Princes and princesses in the US Senate.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Well said. Like you, I think the chances of a supermajority in the Senate are very slim, though not impossible. I grossly underestimated the numbers in the House in 1994, so I'm not much of a prognosticator. One thing that does occur to me is that it's time to learn the Democrats' dirty tricks for fending off filibusters and getting things done with simple majorities. The problem there, of course, is that most direct fiscal matters do require supermajorities and are vulnerable to filibusters. Still, where there's a will, there's lawyers.

I also agree that it is vitally important that the Republicans nominate a strong fiscal conservative willing to drive the agenda in Congress and jawbone reluctant RINOs.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's really frustrating to me that the Democrats seem to be able to hold their people together whenever they need them, but we have such a large group that keeps undercutting our own team.

I'm not sure how many RINOs are in the Senate exactly or how consistently RINOish they are, but I see anywhere from 3-5 consistent RINOs and that's enough to effectively stop us from getting any true reform.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree. It's time to dig out the Democratic Dirty Trick playbook and use it against them. If they could ram Obamacare through on reconciliation, then there is nothing we shouldn't be able to run through in the same way.

I agree too about nominating a genuine conservative. I saw Huntsman this weekend attacking the Republican Party using standard Democratic slanders and talking points. I'm truly sick of that.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I can't even believe Huntsman is in this race as a Republican. His attacks have been nasty and misplaced, but the worst is his insistence that Republicans "deny science" because they won't accept the phony anthropogenic global warming baloney. His stance on gay marriage isn't going to help him much either. Gay marriage doesn't much affect the main economics issue, but globaloney could destroy what's left of our fiscal ability to rebound from the recession. The EPA alone could put America out of business. RINO barely begins to define this guy.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree. He is literally reading from the Big Book of Democratic Lies and Slanders. I'm not sure why he thinks he's a Republican. Fortunately, the latest poll has him at 1% support.

Patti said...

andrew: seats shmeats. who needs to worry about seats when the prez can just do what barry keeps doing: making up rules as he goes along (immigration comes to mind).

it's almost enough to make me find a cave and ride out the rest of my years there.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, Let's hope President GenericRepublican is willing to do the same thing, otherwise reform will be difficult. We can defund a lot of what Obama did, but it's going to take a special strategy to undo most of the damage he's done.

DUQ said...

Andrew, Thanks for laying this out. When you hear there are 23 Democrats up for re-election, it seems like we have a good shot at getting to 60. But as you point out, we really don't.

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome DUQ. It's not great news, but it's realistic and it's worth knowing. I think the real take away here is that we need to be more careful about who we pick as President and we need to make sure they have a solid grasp of how to use Executive Power to reform the government.

rlaWTX said...

OT: I don't know if this has been discussed yet, but Ryan is out and Palin is in... not the direction I was hoping for!!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I hadn't heard that, but that's bad news. I'll check it out, thanks!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Here's a link to the Ryan story: LINK.

Ug.

Ed said...

This is a day for bad news isn't it? So we can't get Ryan and we can't win enough votes in the Senate. Andrew, how much reform and what types do you think can be achieved only through the executive branch?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Yes, I am the bearer of bad news. I learned this trait when working in Hallmark's "So You Need A Reason to Kill Yourself" Division.

On the reform, that's a very good question. On the one hand, we can rescind every regulation Obama promulgated. And since most of what he's done has been by regulation, that means we can undo MOST of the damage he did.

We can't repeal laws however, so things the Democrats passed that put into place legal requirements can't be undone. We can defund some of those, but that's a temporary measure. It's like saying "ObamaCare is the law, but there's no money to enforce it this year."

It's not at all clear how much can be done through the power of reconciliation. Theoretically, that's only available for budget related items, but the Dems seemed to be able to use it for pretty much anything. So I'm honestly not sure what the limits are on that.

I'm also not sure how much the Republicans can do by getting laws passed in both chambers and then negotiating to get the House version and sending it back to the Senate. That often prevents filibusters, but again, I'm not sure exactly what the bounds are.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I can't find anything on Palin declaring that she's in.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

I don't know. Your logic is depressing. Still, it is better to know what we are up against than trust in rosy predictions.

About Ryan, I hope he reconsiders. On Palin, I am ticked because it is obvious she is going to go for it. Why not declare? Yes, I saw the Rasmussen polls. It doesn't matter this far out. It is like predicting how many hurricanes are going to be created this season.

If she is on the primary ballot in my district, I will not vote for her. It is because I don't like her manner. When someone who keeps on giving a non-answer, it is hard for me to trust them.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, It is sadly depressing. I thought we had a better chance, especially with 23 Democrats up for re-election. But it just doesn't look doable at the moment. Things can change and I hope they do, but right now, it just doesn't look like we can get to 60.

I wish Ryan would change his mind too. Now is the time for him to jump in, not some years down the future. This next White House will set the tone for the next 30-50 years. What is he waiting for?

I don't know what to say about Palin. All we can do is wait to see if she jumps in or not. I'm honestly now sure why she's waiting if she is planning to jump in. This would have seemed like a good weekend to do it to short-circuit Perry. And Iowa should be her strongest state, so why wait? I just don't know.

On Rasmussen, true, none of these polls mean much because too many things can still happen. Also, there is a huge difference between "who would you support" and actually voting. Plus, Rasmussen's polls are national, but the real race is state by state. So while they give some indication of what is going on, they are only a crude approximation.

BevfromNYC said...

Hey, take heart. There is a very strong possibility that Republican Bob Turner will pick up Anthony Weiners' seat the District 9 in a special election Sept 13. Turner ran against Weiner in Nov and lost, but he is closing in fast. Right now he's 5 points behind his opponent David Welprin.

Ed Koch endorsed Turner because Koch is p.o.'ed (REALLY p.o.'ed) at Obama because he's thrown Israel under the bus.

The polls were a big surprise to the hand-picked Dem candidate and now the state Dems are in a real panic.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, That's something! It would be quite a surprise if a Republican picked up any seat anywhere near New York City. Maybe there's hope for us yet?

rlaWTX said...

I just read the headline at NRO:
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/275146/she-will-run-robert-costa

but it seems like it's still guess work after all...

I understand Ryan's direction - and I appreciate it. But someone as interesting /useful /focused would be awesome!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Thanks for the link. (Here it is LINK). I thought you might have heard something that hadn't made the news yet, because I suspect if/when Palin jumps in, it will be all over the news.

On Ryan, it's honestly hard to hold it against someone that they won't run for President. That's a pretty brutal things to do these days. But I am very disappointed because he would have been a great candidate and a better President.

At this point, I'm not sure who else might still jump in, but I'd like to see someone else as I'm really not thrilled with what we have. But frankly, I'm not even sure who else is out there that would be a good candidate? This is getting rather frustrating.

T-Rav said...

Ryan's not running...we probably won't get to 60 in the Senate...the nominee will likely be either Romney or Perry...ug, I'm taking the night off from blogging.

AndrewPrice said...

Yep, depressing.

Enjoy your night off T-Rav, but hurry back in the morning for the most consequential article of all time. . . maybe.

BevfromNYC said...

Hey, stop being depressed you two! We need the attitude of the Libs. Even losing is winning. So we shoot for 60 and get 58. There are just as many Bluedogs as there are RINO's.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, We're just wallowing in a little GOPity. We'll get over it soon and be our chipper selves soon enough.

58 would still be great and might set us up for 60 after the next election. Plus, we can do a lot with the White House.

:-)

CrispyRice said...

Well that's a depressing assessment, Andrew! But probably not a bad reality check.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, It's a bummer, but it's worth knowing. Still, we need to be positive... or Bev will kill us. ;-)

T-Rav said...

Well, that sure got me feeling positive! Nothing like death threats to put you in an upbeat mood. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, It worked for Letterman! LOL!

Look at is this way, Commentarama cares enough about our readers to threaten their lives to cheer them up! :-)

Koshcat said...

You don't need a supermajority, it just is slower and takes longer. Often, small simple laws can neuter larger ones. I am also optimistic that Obamacare will be struck down by the supreme court. I am going to go out on a limb and score it 6-2. The system is figuring it out but I think the part that will just go too far is the changing the penalty to calling it a tax. The courts are a little isolated from the world and with the people indicating that they went too far will wear off on the fuzzy middle justices.

Defunding is also very effective. Cut the EPA budget in half and they can't monitor nearly as much so they will have to fall back to the most important. Also, with just a majority, we can set the agenda. So even if the wildly libertarian law out of the house can't be passed a calmer one can be presented to the senate and debated. Also, focus on something even the democrats can claim a win. Making social security solvent with slowly increasing the age would one.

Sausage making at its finest and oh so delicious.

rlaWTX said...

Koshcat is an optimist!!!

Thanks for the non-death-threat related mood bump!

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I think you're right about the Supremes. I think they will strike down Obamacare and that should kill it.

And I think there is a lot we can do with defunding and with the president simply eliminating regulations -- which don't require Congressional approval.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Commentarama has many tools to improve your mood and not all of them require death threats! ;-)

T-Rav said...

So now that I've shaken off my Eeyore mood, I have two questions: 1. Assuming we only get a simple majority in the Senate, why can't we do stuff like repeal ObamaCare through reconciliation (only requiring 51 votes)? I mean, I don't want to do it that way, but if turnabout is fair play, then...

And 2., I thought there was going to be a Paul Ryan piece this morning? Yes, it's kind of pointless now that he's not running, but it'd still be useful for fully introducing us to the man, and for 30 or 40 seconds, maybe, we could imagine that he really is running, and how awesome that would be. Sigh...

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I saved my info, so I'll still put the Ryan piece together.

On reconciliation, my understanding is that you can only repeal things with 51 votes that were originally passed with 51 votes. So some things could be done that way and others couldn't. But making real changes to things like social security and Medicare can't be done. Repealing most of the laws the EPA enforces can't be stopped. Etc.

There is still a lot we can do, but we can't completely remake the government and fix the whole mess.

On Obamacare specifically, I think Koshcat makes a great point, which is that the entire law is likely to go away (I would say 5-4) sometime early next year.

Individualist said...

Andrew...

Strom Thurmond holds a record in the Senate for the longest filibuster, 24 hours. This was against the Civil rights Act of 1957 which was a version of the 1964 law that did not have any enforcement provisions. He was a democrat at that time and when he converted to the GOP he voted for the 1964 act. Robert Byrd filibustered that act for 19 hours.

At that time in order to maintain a filibuster one had to remain speaking on the Senate floor. The vote was to end debate. If the vote was no don't end debate then their had to be actual debating going on.

I don't know when it changed but I am thinking it might be a good idea to go back to that rule. Since as you properly say we have a RINO problem it does not seem to me that it would ever be used against us anyways.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, That's a great point. The filibuster today is just a threat which causes the other side to cave in, there's not even a requirement that you actually get up and waste the time. They should bring that back and make them work for it!

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