Political Animal


October 31, 2012 10:20 AM Senate Underachievers

By Ed Kilgore

The steadily increasing likelihood (which Nate Silver currently pegs as a 90.9% probability) of Democrats hanging onto control of the Senate is the great underreported national political story of the year. It means the pleasant fantasy that conservative activists have used to rock themselves to sleep each night—a President Romney prepared to sign a vast budget reconciliation bill modeled on Ryan’s blueprint, whipped through both Houses of Congress without a single compromise on a straight party-line vote—is fading, no matter what happens at the top of the ballot.

Much of the limited reporting we’ve seen on this phenomenon emphasizes the role of the Tea Party in creating, as it did in 2010, a weaker candidate lineup that would otherwise be the case, with this year’s Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell being Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. And there’s some truth to that, since IN and MO were considered near lead-pipe-cinch propositions for the GOP when the cycle began.

But of equal importance has been a batch of more traditional candidates who have simply underperformed: Linda Lingle in Hawaii, Connie Mack in Florida, Heather Wilson in New Mexico, and Pete Hoekstra in Michigan. You could probably add Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin to the list, though he does have a decent chance of victory, albeit not by the margins it looked liked when he won the nomination over a couple of hyper-conservatives. In almost every case (you can see this clearly on the polling charts at the excellent HuffPost Election Dashboard), these candidates have faded in the late going after looking competitive for a while. It appears that substituting yesterday’s Republican stars for today’s doesn’t help a whole lot, even if turning back the clock to 2002 has become the primary strategy for Mitt Romney’s self-presentation in the stretch run.

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.


  • c u n d gulag on October 31, 2012 10:39 AM:

    Boy, are the 'Spinal Tap Republicans' in trouble.

    "Smell the Glove" has stopped selling, and people got tired of listening to their old "Stonehenge" songs.

  • liam foote on October 31, 2012 10:42 AM:

    As a native Badger and Cheesehead I suggest that Tammy Baldwin's chances are fairly decent, in that Tommy Thompson seems to be incoherent a great deal of the time and, while his Tagg-like scions may not threaten to punch out Obama, they do engage in birtherism.

    I offer for your consideration a brief review of ratings for competitive Senate seats now on InTrade:

    Senate Control
    Dem (70.0) - GOP (17.2) - Neither (11.1)

    Senate Races (among those expected to be close)
    CT - Chris Murphy (D) = 79.0 - 25.3
    FL - Bill Nelson (D) = 80.0 - 29.4
    IN - Joe Donnelly (D) = 64.9 - 43.3
    Maine - Angus King (I) = 97%
    MA - Elizabeth Warren (D) = 80.1 - 17.0
    MO - Claire McCaskill (D) = 75.1 - 23.9
    Ohio - Sherrod Brown (D) = 87.4 - 14.5
    VA - Tim Kaine (D) = 69.7 - 39.9
    WI - Tammy Baldwin (D) = 63.0 - 37.1

    And, btw, thanks much for the new and improved Captcha.
    Mine for this comment was "EXTRA anyanon"

  • Renai on October 31, 2012 11:12 AM:

    Am I mistaken in feeling that we really do not need Mitt Romney in the Oval Office with a blue Senate or Congress. I believe that is worst case scenerio, right there.

    Our government needs to get to work and tackle the issues this Congress has wasted 4 years not doing under the Hate Obama mantra. With Mitt in office, would not the next 4 years be wasted needing to defy a president determined to be an anti-progressive and an Obama deconstructionist? How would this endear a Democratic Senate or Congress to an already sick and tired public.

    We have global concerns that far outweight these stale and useless in-house political tug-of-wars. Mitt will do nothing more than continue them, because his vision is that narrow and selfish. Dems have to be set free to get going on climate policies and global cooperation for real change.

    I for one, would like to see what Obama could actually do unsaddled by an uncooperative Congress.

  • Ron Byers on October 31, 2012 12:17 PM:

    My mother-in-law, who is 92, is voting this election for only one reason--to vote against Todd Akin. I have never seen the lady so worked up. There are lots and lots of Missouri women who are mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more.

    That said, I have all my fingers and toes crossed. The latest polls show Claire up a little, but not enough for me to forget to vote. The Republicans have a lot of evangelical churches pushing the legitimate rape guy like there is no tomorrow.

  • rrk1 on October 31, 2012 12:32 PM:

    Sandy has thrown a monkey wrench into all the calculations of both sides. While some areas will have recovered somewhat from the "Frankenstorm", substantial areas will still be without power next Tuesday, and the entire voting apparatus in those areas will have to be jury rigged. And who knows how many people will turn out under these circumstances.

    With Senate races in Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine a postponement of the election should be undertaken.

  • Joe Friday on October 31, 2012 4:36 PM:

    Well, none other than Mark Halperin, told Charlie Rose last night, that he's become "convinced" in just the last week, that the Republicans will take back the Senate.

    As Bugs would say, "What a maroon !".

  • David Martin on October 31, 2012 11:22 PM:

    In Florida, Connie Mack just sort of disappeared. I hadn't realized that Sen. Bill Nelson was so popular.

  • bluestatedon on November 01, 2012 9:25 AM:

    Mark Halperin is just beneath Dick Morris and William Kristol in his inability to make accurate, sensible predictions.