Sunday, October 31, 2010

Looking ahead to 2012 in the U.S. Senate

The New York Times has a short piece today, looking ahead to the 2012 election cycle and the U.S. Senate seats currently held by each party.  The outlook for the Democrat Party for Tuesday’s 2010 midterm looks positively rosy, compared to their prospects in 2012:

The results of this year’s Senate elections are not even in the books, but senators and political analysts are already looking ahead to 2012, when the Senate math adds up to a daunting prospect for Democrats.

The numbers are stark. Democrats will be forced to defend 24 seats in the 2012 election, including those of two independents aligned with them, compared with just 9 seats for Republicans.

Even if Republicans fall short of capturing control of the Senate on Tuesday, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has expressed confidence that his party will finish the job in 2012. The numbers seem to bolster his case.

Unfortunately, the Times article doesn’t get into the numbers.  It touches on a few key races but doesn’t define the whole playing field.  That gives me an opportunity to do so.  In 2012, the Democrats will attempt to defend the following incumbents:

  • Dianne Feinstein, CA
  • Tom Carper, DE
  • Bill Nelson, FL
  • Daniel Akaka, HI
  • Ben Cardin, MD
  • Debbie Stabenow, MI
  • Amy Klobuchar, MN
  • Claire McCaskill, MO
  • Jon Tester, MT
  • Ben Nelson, NE
  • Bob Menendez, NJ
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, NY
  • Jeff Bingaman, NM
  • Kent Conrad, ND
  • Sherrod Brown, OH
  • Bob Casey, Jr., PA
  • Sheldon Whitehouse, RI
  • Jim Webb, VA
  • Maria Cantwell, WA
  • Open, WV
  • Herb Kohl, WI

In addition, there are two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.  These are:

  • Bernie Sanders, VT
  • Joe Lieberman, CT

Unless my 1st grade math teacher was wrong, or unless I’m missing someone, this makes 23, not 24, seats to be defended by those who are or vote with the Democrats. There are two seats being decided in a 2010 special election, NY and WV.  Those two seats will be up for grabs again in 2012.

Early betting would probably have Bill Nelson (FL), Stabenow (MI), McCaskill (MO), Tester (MT), Ben Nelson (NE), Conrad (ND), Brown (OH), Casey (PA), Webb (VA) and Kohl (WI) as the most endangered incumbents.

By contrast, the Republicans will attempt to defend the following incumbents:

  • Jon Kyl, AZ
  • Richard Lugar, IN
  • Olympia Snowe, ME
  • Scott Brown, MS
  • Roger Wicker, MS
  • John Ensign, NV
  • Bob Corker, TN
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison, TX
  • Orrin Hatch, UT
  • John Barrasso, WY

I’m counting 10 here.  Are you?  Are we really that much better at counting toes than the New York Times? At any rate, only Scott Brown (MA) is from a traditionally Democrat state and would be the most competitive of the races for incumbent seats.

Hutchison (TX) still hasn’t said whether she’ll seek reelection.  If she decides to retire, Democrats would probably run hard for that seat. I think the effort would be futile. Snowe (ME), Ensign (NV) and Hatch (UT) are also likely targets for conservative/Tea Party primary challenges. Of the three, Snowe losing a primary would put that seat at the highest risk of flipping. Depending on the outcome of the special election in West Virginia, the GOP might also be defending that seat, and it too would be a high value target for the Democrats.

I’m counting ten races that will be highly competitive and difficult for the Democrats to defend, and maybe two competitive races that would be a challenge to hold for the Republicans.

If the GOP takes say, eight Senate seats on Tuesday night and then takes eight more in 2012, it would give the GOP a 57-43 majority in the Senate.  If conservative Democrats like the Nelsons in Florida and Nebraska and Tester in Montana can be persuaded to invoke cloture, a lot of good work can be done dismantling the structure the left wing has assembled in the 111th Congress.

Is it too early too look ahead to 2012?  Perhaps.  But it’s still fun to speculate while pointing out that liberals—like the staff at the New York Times—are bad at math.