A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

State of the Race – October 31 (The More Important Race: Control of the Senate)

With the Northeast in the process of cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, the number of polls being done has actually slowed down. As a result, there has not been much movement in the presidential race since my report on Saturday. So I thought I would dedicate this post to the control of the Senate. While there has been a lot of focus on the presidential race, it could very easily be argued that the more important race is being conducted in 33 states where the control of the Senate will be decided. More on that below.

For those of you who are political novices, US Senators are elected to a six-year term and since federal elections are conducted every two years, one third of the Senate is up for election every two years. Of the 33 Senate races this year, 21 of the seats are currently held by a Democrat, 10 seats are held by a Republican and 2 seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democrats (Joe Lieberman, CT and Bernie Sanders, VT). Senator Lieberman is retiring, so I will count that as a seat currently held by the Democrats and since Senator Sanders has been a reliable ally for the Democrats, I will count him as a Democrat as well for the purposes of my analysis which means that there are 23 seats which the Democrats are trying to hold and only 10 seats which the Republicans are trying to hold.

Presently, the Democrats hold a majority in the Senate by a 53-47 margin. This means that if the Republicans want to take control of the Senate they will need a net gain of four seats to take out right control or a net gain of three seats to arrive at a 50-50 tie which they would have control of, if Governor Romney is elected and Paul Ryan becomes Vice President who would then have the tie-breaking vote as President of the Senate. With that in mind, let's look at the 33 states that have senatorial elections this year:

Democrats: California*, Connecticut, Delaware*, Florida*, Hawaii, Maryland*, Michigan*, Minnesota*, Missouri*, Montana*, Nebraska, New Jersey*, New Mexico, New York*, North Dakota, Ohio*, Pennsylvania*, Rhode Island*, Vermont*, Virginia, Washington*, West Virginia* & Wisconsin
Republicans: Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts*, Mississippi*, Nevada*, Tennessee*, Texas, Utah* & Wyoming*

Of those states listed, the asterix indicates that it is a state where an incumbent is running for reelection. Using the same categories I am using for the presidential race, here's where I see the Senate races (blue represents a seat currently controlled by the Democrats and red represents a seat currently controlled by the Republicans):

CA*, DE*, MD*, MN*, NJ*, NY*, RI*, VT*, WA*, WV*
FL*, HI, MI*, NM, OH*, PA*,
CT, MA*, MO*
MS*, TN*, TX, UT*, WY*



In terms of the total seats control by both parties, the breakdown is as follows: for seats not up for election or considered safe, the Republicans have an advantage of 42-40. If you add in the seats I've identified as “Likely” for a given party, the Democrats hold the advantage 46-44-1. If you add in the “Lean” seats, the Democrat's advantage is 49-47-1. Finally, there are also three states which I have identified as “Tossup” seats.

Based on this, I have a couple of observations. First, it is readily apparent that whichever party controls the Senate, it will likely be by a very narrow margin. Secondly, the Senate race in Maine may take on a lot more importance after the election if former Maine Governor Angus King is elected as an independent and the Senate party breakdown is 50-49. King holds a significant lead in the polls in Maine and I contemplated putting it in the “Safe” category, but decided not to as he is an independent, yet not an incumbent. At this point, it is unknown which party King would caucus with and many believe that he would caucus with the Democrats, but there is an argument to be made that he could caucus with the Republicans, especially if they will be in the majority.

My final observation regarding the Senate map is that, much like the presidential race, it seems to favor the Democrats. For instance, if you look at the 3 “Tossup” states, two of them were won by President Obama in 2008 and he is competitive in both of them this year as well. Also, states that the Republicans would have liked to be more competitive in appear to be slipping away, such as Florida and Ohio and other states that you would have thought would have been relatively safe for the Republicans have been closer than expected, such as Arizona and Indiana. While the Republicans will probably pick up two of the seats control by the Democrats, this very well may get wiped out with the Democratic win in Massachusetts and an Independent win in Maine. Once again, like the presidential race, the Republicans look like they need to sweep the tossup states in order to win and that would only put them at a 50-50 tie meaning they would need to pick off one of the "Lean" Democrat states to get to a clear majority of 51.

As I said above, the race for the Senate is arguably more important than the presidential race in that control of the Senate may very well determine where things go for the next two years even more than who is sitting in the White House. If Obama is reelected but the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, he may have a difficult time getting much of his agenda passed. However, if the Democrats retain control the Senate, the legislative battles will be waged on the Hill much like the last two years, but a Republican controlled House would have to recognize that there's nothing they can do without the President's approval and they will no longer be able to wait for his electoral defeat. This may make them more willing to negotiate and work with the Senate Democrats. On the other hand, if Romney wins the presidency, but the Democrats retain control of Senate, it will probably severely limit how much Romney is able to accomplish towards his stated goals. For instance, I find it highly unlikely that a Democratic-controlled Senate would pass a bill that repeals Obama-care which Governor Romney has promised to do. However, if Romney is elected with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, the Democrats will be limited to trying to filibuster things in the Senate, but much of what Romney would want to accomplish will probably get done. In other words, while both parties are hoping that they win the presidential race, it is the race for control of Senate which has turned into their backup plan to disrupt or support the agenda of whoever wins the presidency.

Later this week, I will post my prediction for the presidential race and I will provide the breakdown of where I think these Senate races will go as well. In the meantime, do not ignore the Senate races as they are just as much a factor in what happens the next 2 to 4 years as does the race to be the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

No comments:

Post a Comment