Ben Buchwalter

Will Dems GAIN (!) in 2010?
December 9, 2008, 2:32 am
Filed under: 2008 Election, General Politics | Tags: , ,

It has become a cliché of American politics that after two years of a President’s first term, his opposition party will fare extremely well in the midterm elections to take back the Senate, House or both. This happened disastrously in 1994 due to Clinton’s bungling of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and his attempt to pass Universal Health Care, which prompted a wave of Republican dominance and Newt Gingerich’s control of the House. Ouch.

So the big question of the day seemed to be: will the Democrats lose their large 58-seat (at least) lead in the Senate and their 257-seat majority in the House in the 2010 elections? Surprisingly, the answer seems to be no. But this does not necessarily mean that Democrats are going to remain wholly popular for the next two years. They are likely to hold onto their leads because in the political climate of 2010, some of the most popular Democrats will be up for reelection and some of the least popular Republicans will face their potential doom.

Let’s start with the Senate. Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight gives a pretty complete rundown of the most competitive races in 2010 and the chances that those seats will change parties. Among other states, he points to Kansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky and Nevada as the most likely to change parties. And in only one of those states – Nevada- would the Democratic incumbent (the vastly unpopular Harry Reid) lose to the Republican. And many argue that this is not as likely as conservatives would have you believe.

But the deep red state of Kansas is very promising for Democrats. The two-term Senator and 2008 Republican Presidential nominee Sam Brownback has announced that he will retire before that election. This will undoubtedly precipitate a contentious Republican Primary battle followed by a strong Democratic Challenger, Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius, the popular Governor of Kansas was seriously considered as a VP candidate for the Obama ticket. When she was passed over for that position, it was a foregone conclusion that she would be offered a place in the Cabinet. But she has recently taken her name out of consideration, which suggests that she could be gearing up to take Brownback’s open seat in 2010.

Pennsylvania is another likely Democratic pickup. Arlen Specter, the long-time Senator is expected to undergo intense opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in two years. He is vulnerable for a couple of reasons: his age, health, and the fact that Pennsylvania has become a deeper shade of blue in the past two elections. In 2004, he squeaked by Pat Toomey of the conservative Club for Growth in the Republican primary election. Toomey is expected to try again for Specter’s spot. The Democrats have also lined up a few strong candidates, most notably Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Iraq War Veteran Rep. Patrick Murphy. Chris Bowers of OpenLeft handicaps the match ups here.

Silver also says that the Democrats have a pretty good chance to pick up seats in Ohio and Kentucky because of vulnerable Republican incumbents, but it is unclear so far which Democratic candidates would vie for those seats.

Keep in mind, that the seats vacated by Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton will be targets for the Republicans because the interim candidates will not have much experience to run on in 2010. But those states, Illinois, Delaware, and New York are not traditionally strong red states, which gives Democrats a strong advantage.

All in all, due to the unique political climate of 2010, Silver predicts that the Democrats will net between 1-3 seats, which would be enough to propel them above the 60-seats needed to prevent a Republican filibuster. In a midterm election for a Democrat’s first term, that would be incredible.

Since the races for vacancies and challenges in the House are much more complicated, I will let the pundits speak for themselves. Read this interview published on with NBC National Political Director Chuck Todd, Chris Hays, the Washington Editor of the Nation, and Amy Walter, the editor-in-chief of the Hotline for the National Journal Group.

The exciting aspect to take away from these predictions is that the Democrats could maintain their advantages in the Executive and Legislative branches for the duration of Obama’s first term. According to the likely political climate of 2010, it would take a serious bungling of foreign and domestic affairs for the Republicans to take back their advantage. And I’m talking Bush bungling.


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