Political Animal


October 30, 2012 3:32 PM Maybe Not This Time

By Ed Kilgore

As part of the general discussion of the Myth of Moderate Mitt, it’s often taken for granted that if Romney does win and has to deal with a Democratic Senate, he and his conservative buddies will steamroll them just as they always have. Here’s Mike Tomasky today:

What Republicans generally mean by “working across the aisle” is terrifying just enough Democrats from red states and districts into supporting their initiatives and destroying them if they fail to, like the old ads from 2002 that impugned the patriotism of Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who left three limbs in Vietnam but opposed Bush’s war in Iraq.

I am quite sure that if, say, Mitt Romney takes office with a Senate that’s 52-48 Democratic (a reasonably good possibility), he and GOP congressional leaders will raise heaven and earth to drag two Democratic senators into a tactical alliance, with bribes, threats, you name it. But it’s not as easy as it used to be to identify “red-state Democrats” who will take the bait. Joe Lieberman (not from a red state, but very much open to “compromise”) will be gone. So will Ben Nelson. Bill Nelson and Claire McCaskill will have just survived tough, highly partisan elections. I doubt either will be in the mood to sell out Florida Democrats, even a little bit.

Yes, Mary Landrieu will still be in the Senate, as will Kay Hagan. But both voted against the Ryan Budget and for Obamacare. Maybe they can be picked off on some “bipartisan” bills, but not on the big stuff. And perhaps some of the new Democratic senators (e.g., Heidi Heitkampf or Joe Donnelly) will be “flexible.” But the reality is that it will probably take a decent-sized Democratic victory in the Senate to produce these kind of vulnerable votes, reducing the temptation to stray.

This doesn’t mean Democrats will achieve (probably ever) the kind of “Leninist” unity Tomasky rightly attributes to Republicans. But a combination of Republican extremism, voter polarization, and geographical realignment has produced a Senate Democratic Caucus very different from the one that Bush often rolled. If we do wind up with a scenario where a few Democratic votes in the Senate are the only thing that stands against something as radical as the Ryan Budget or the repeal of Obamacare, I wouldn’t just assume the wall crumbles immediately.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Peter C on October 30, 2012 3:48 PM:

    Ed, the whole media will pound centrist Democrats day after day for 'being partisan' and 'obstructionist' without the slightest qualm or scruple.

    Attacks don't have to be 'valid' these days, they merely need to be widely propagated. And, if Romney wins, their efficacy will be conclusively proven.

  • c u n d gulag on October 30, 2012 3:48 PM:

    A lot of the Democrats who agreed with AUMF, did so because they were on the wrong side of Bush Sr's Iraq non-adventure. That, and they trusted Colin Powell.

    Unfortunately, they didn't learn from that horrilbe mistake, and afterwards, went along with too many of Bush's worst moves, instead of trying to stop him.

    I'm sorry, I'd like to think otherwise, but I have little faith in the Senate Democrats to stop Mitt's agenda if he wins.

  • martin on October 30, 2012 3:49 PM:

    If we do wind up with a scenario where a few Democratic votes in the Senate are the only thing that stands against something as radical as the Ryan Budget or the repeal of Obamacare, I wouldn’t just assume the wall crumbles immediately.

    Naaah, I'd give it at least a week

  • Ron Byers on October 30, 2012 3:54 PM:

    Hey Ed, how does the Senate shape up from this side of the election?

  • Lucia on October 30, 2012 3:59 PM:

    At most a week.

  • James Conner on October 30, 2012 4:00 PM:

    You forgot Max Baucus. His term expires in 2014.

  • T2 on October 30, 2012 4:07 PM:

    There are probably 10 Dem Senators that would flip for various reasons...the few listed above, plus Munchin, Kaine and others who are for the most part DINOs or dems from conservative constituencies....Look, if Romney wins it really doesn't matter how many Dems do this or that. Romney will have veto power and the House of Nuts. The real question here should be how many Dems will flip if Obama wins....pretty much the same list. Name me two GOPer Senators that will flip Dem for "compromise/bipartisanship?

  • June on October 30, 2012 4:09 PM:

    Every time I see these kinds of pieces, I can't help but wonder if we'd be seeing this same type of posting if Pres. Obama only had a 27% chance of winning the election, rather than that being Mitt Romney's chance. I remember for six months, all Democratic-leaning pundits could blog about and speak about was the "likelihood" that the Republicans would win the mid-terms - based on far less than this! Obama has a 73% chance of winning. Let's focus on that.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 30, 2012 4:28 PM:

    No, it'll crumble.

  • Mimikatz on October 30, 2012 5:45 PM:

    Not so fast. There is clearly some bad blood between Reid and Romney, and I'd expect Reid to be on his case, especially if Shelley Berkley wins Heller'sSenate seat with Reid's machine. I agree Claire McCaskill and Bill Nelson won't be such patsies this time and everyone remembers what happened to Blanche Lincoln. Heidi Heitkamp is not a Kent Conrad, much more of a Byron Dorgan. And Mazie Hirono is stronger than Inouye. And Liebermann is gone, finally. Another object lesson.

    And if a few of the worst Tea Partiers like Cravaack, Joe Walsh and Alan West lose so the margin in the House is down to 8-10 votes, they won't be quite so nutso. I think Mitch McConnell really hates Obama and will be an a**hole until he dies, but it will be much harder if Obama wins. Plus millionaires and zillionaires will be wondering where all their money went. I'm not saying things will be fine, but Obama's job will be marginally easier if he wins, the economy picks up and people pull together to intelligently rebuild the Eadt Coast.

  • Rip on October 30, 2012 5:49 PM:

    No matter who wins in Nov., the Republicans will start acting immediately to take the Senate in 2014. If Romney wins they'll care less about getting anything done, than insisting it's Dem. partisanship that's holding things up. If Obama wins they'll do pretty much the same thing.

  • FlipYrWhig on October 30, 2012 6:50 PM:

    I wouldn't worry about Kaine -- he'll be at least as solid as Bob Casey, Jr., or Mark Warner, or Jim Webb would have been. But I would worry about the execrable Joe Manchin, who I think would love to get the fulsome attention of the Beltway crowd by declaring himself an independent, then attaching himself to the GOP like a remora.