|King DivGoverah astride the capitol.|
A 2012 divided government sequel?
In an earlier post, we looked at the at the prospects for the House of Representatives and determined that (Nancy Pelosi's delusional rants notwithstanding) the Republicans held a prohibitive majority. The GOP majority is likely to shrink this cycle, but in 2013 John Boehner will still be Speaker of the House. The Senate is a tougher call. Currently the Democrats have a 53-47 majority in the Senate (counting Independent Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman as caucusing with Democrats). The Republicans need to pick up net four seats for an outright majority, or as few as three seats to tie and control the majority if the Republicans win the White House.
For some time, the Dividist predicted that 2012 would be the best chance for the Republicans to retake the Senate majority (links here, here, here). This expectation was based on the crushing structural advantage enjoyed by the GOP in this cycle. There are 31 seats up for grabs in 2012. 21 of those seats are held by Democrats and 10 are held by Republicans. The Democrats will be playing defense. 21 seats are a lot to defend. Moreover, many of these Democrats were swept into office in the 2006 wave election, including some in normally conservative red-tint states. Nine of the ten Republicans are in mostly safe seats, and have a target rich environment.
Ben Domenech at Ricochet succinctly summarizes the field of battle:
"The Democrats are defending horrid ground this cycle, truly horrid. They have seven open seats to defend, including two—replacing Nebraska Cornhusker Kickback King Ben Nelson and liberal bichon frise lover Kent Conrad of North Dakota—which are, barring the arrival of a sweet meteor of death, almost assured to end up in the Republican column. And for the Republicans, the opposite is true – they have just two open seats to defend. The first is in the strongly red Texas to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison... The second is in the significantly red Arizona, where Republican Congressman Jeff Flake is the near-certain victor, to replace conservative stalwart Jon Kyl."Still - four seats are four seats. Many felt in 2010 the GOP could have (and should have) taken four additional seats but failed by putting clown candidates instead of establishment Republicans against Democrats in Nevada, Connecticut, Colorado, and Delaware. They have a similar opportunity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 2012.
Let us peer into Larry Sabato's crystal ball. His current outlook for the Senate:
"Democratic hopes of retaining the Senate are starting to rest heavily on defeating either or both Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Dean Heller (R-NV)... The underlying and near-absolute requirement for Democratic retention of the Senate is that President Obama recovers and wins fairly handily... The range of possible Senate results heading into 2012 appears to be a skin-of-the-teeth Democratic majority (50-51 seats) to a flip of about 53-47 GOP control. Naturally, strong partisans disagree with us. Democratic leaders insist they won’t lose any seats, while private Republican estimates are that the GOP could have 56-57 Senate seats next November. Currently, we believe both parties are too optimistic."Sabato sees it as very close. The Dividist agrees.
Intrade bettors are more pessimistic for the Democrats. The Intrade Prediction Markets have a good track record of forecasting winners when the election is imminent. While it is a great barometer of current sentiment, it is less reliable as a soothsayer when the election is still many months away. FWIW - this is what people who are willing to put their money where there mouth is think about the 2012 Senate Race:
|As of 11-Feb-12 Intrade gives the GOP a 75% chance of taking the Senate|
Look - Democrats are going to lose Senate seats. It is a question of how many and whether they can take any seats from Republicans to make the majority rule summit of that hill a little too steep to climb. Perhaps the race that will tell the tale, is in Massachusetts. The 2010 special election where Republican Scott Brown won
This year Brown is up against liberal darling Elizabeth Warren. This looks to be a much tougher race if for no other reason that, unlike Brown's 2010 opponent Martha Coakley, Elizabeth Warren can at least feign interest in the local sports teams. She took the lead in the polls as soon as she jumped into the race, but Scott is far from out of it.
Net net. The Republicans will keep control in the House. Senate control is leaning Republican but it's too close to call. If the Republicans win the White House it is virtually certain they will also take the majority in the Senate and One Party Republican Rule will be restored. Voters who prefer to avoid a return to the salad days of 2000-2006 cannot rely on the Democrats holding the Senate, leaving only one certain way to avoid that outcome.
The Divided Government vote for 2012 is a vote to re-elect Barack Obama.