Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: U.S. Senate --- Point Of No Return?

The political news about the 2014 U.S. senate races has
been consistent for months --- that is, bad news for
Democrats, especially incumbents who voted for
Obamacare legislation. I have reported and discussed
much of this, and have been amazed by the steady
degradation of the liberal brand in the senate that has
been accompanied by so little effort by Democratic
senate leaders and their vulnerable incumbents to
reverse this political trend.

What has emerged is a call for liberal candidates to
re-state and reinforce their votes on Obamacare, and
to endorse the administration’s whole liberal energy,
tax, education and foreign policies --- none of which
seem to be working very well. The latest, and perhaps
lamest, attempt to reverse their political fortunes has
Obama, Reid, Pelosi and various administration
spokespersons warning that it is only a matter of weeks
and a few months when Obamacare will suddenly be
perceived as a great success, i.e., “Woe to you Republicans
and conservatives (and centrist moderates) for doubting
this landmark change in American healthcare policy!”

At first, only the most vulnerable seats (those where the
incumbent Democrats retired), i.e. Montana, South Dakota
and West Virginia, were considered certain “takeovers.”

Then a second tier of seats (those in which incumbents
chose to run for re-election), i.e., Arkansas, Louisiana,
and Alaska, seemed headed for Democratic loss.

Subsequently and surprisingly, a third tier of senate
races seemed to point to Democratic loss, i.e., Iowa,
North Carolina and Michigan.

Now still another tier of incumbent Democrats, once
considered invulnerable, now appear to have tight races,
i.e., Colorado, New Hampshire, and Oregon, and cannot
be considered safe for the party which now controls the
U.S. senate.

Finally, and shockingly, there are three races that were once
thought iron-clad, Delaware, Minnesota and Virginia, which
although now comfortably leaning to the Democrats, could
become competitive, primarily because the Republicans
seemed to have found strong challengers, or because the
Obamacare debacle might become even worse.

On the Republican side there were also vulnerable
incumbents in Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina,
Tennessee and a vacated GOP seat in Georgia. But the races
in South Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee are now less
likely to change to the Democrats, and the two remaining
vulnerable GOP seats remain the conservatives to lose.

The latest explanation of what will happen in November,
2014 from the Democrats is that the economy will be fully
recovering, the stock market booming and unemployment
will be down dramatically --- and these will offset Obamacare
problems, and rescue the party’s senate control.

It could happen that way, but there is so far no evidence other
than a very slowly  recovering economy. Wall Street appears
nervous that stocks are too high; and tax, regulatory and
environmental policies are doing little if anything to boost

President Obama has just delayed the Keystone oil pipeline
still one more (and unjustifiable) time, apparently to satisfy
some billionaire supporters --- thus giving Republicans
another strong issue.

I have learned from experience that political fortunes rarely
go for long periods in one direction, up or down, and that is
usually because political parties can diagnose their problems
and act to counter them. But we are now only six months from
election day, and that is often the borderline for how long
economic trends can begin to appear.

One pundit wrote a column showing that Democrats could
even gain senate seats in 2014, as they surprisingly did in 2012,
but that seemed more a technical op ed fantasy than anything
which is likely to happen.

In 2016, the advantage on senate incumbency shifts to the
Democrats. They might even lose control by a few seats in 2014,
but be likely to win back control in 2016. On the other hand,
if the GOP gains a net of 9 or more senate seats in 2014, and
their prospects for winning the presidency are good in 2016,
the hopes of Democrats to regain even partial control of
Congress might be lost for a very long time.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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