10 in 2010
Republican Senate Pickup opportunities -- 2010.
by Adam Cahn
Conservatives disheartened by Nov. 4th's "thumping" can take heart; we're only 691 short days away from election day 2010. Much like Democrats following their 2004 debacle, Republicans now face their best political opportunity in at least five years. Democrats, who no longer have George W. Bush to kick around, must now govern. Most of the lingering congressional corruption scandals now feature Democrats (Don Young's fate in Alaska notwithstanding). Republicans, free from the responsibility of governance, have the luxury of principled obstruction for the first time in sixteen years. With a focus on conservative reform, impeccable ethics, the right leadership, and a couple lucky breaks Democrats will face political peril in just 691 short days.
While the country is split roughly evenly on the issue of protecting the unborn, Barack Obama will be the most pro-Abortion President to enter office in American history. In addition, pro-Abortion Democrats in Congress will know their time as a 16 to 20 seat majority in the Senate will be inherently limited. Given the reality of a near supermajority in congress along with holding the white house, pro-abortion Democrats must strike during this Congress. The only question is what mechanism Democrats will use. They have many options; either a frontal legislative attack (which I doubt) or more subtle parlementary manuvers. Potential Democrat targets include: the 2003 ban on partial birth abortion, laws making it illegal to transport minors across state lines for abortions, or a dramatic expansion of taxpayer funded abortion. However the public feels about abortion more broadly, the moderate restrictions listed above all enjoy 85% support in the country.
The second major issue that will harm Democrats is land use and economic development on Federally Owned lands in the Western States. When Democrats put the Green Mafia in charge of the Interior Department and the EPA, they will inevitably put environmental restrictions on economic and recreational activity. If the history of the Clinton and Carter administrations are a guide, these issues will cost Democrats Senate seats. In 1992, Democrats had 8 seats in the Interior West; in 2000, they had 3.
The third major issue Republicans will have is ethics and corruption. With Ted Stevens' defeat, there aren't many corrupt Republicans left. Democrats, on the other hand, have many members under ethical clouds, including prominent committee chairmen like Charlie Rangel, Chris Dodd, and Barney Frank. Democrats could see a steady stream of members with ethical issues in the next few years.
The following ten senate races are winnable with the right candidate:
1) Evan Bayh (IN) - While popular among Republicans and a good fit for Dan Quayle's old seat, the former DLC chair is loathed among the Democrat party's activist base. Controversial votes like (FISA, Partial Birth Abortion, & Z) leave Bayh's left flank vulnerable and other votes (Affirmative Action, ANWR, & Nuisance Lawsuits against Gun Manufacturers) will allow Republicans to tie Bayh to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid and to brand him as out of touch with Indiana's values. As a member of the Armed Services committee, he is also vulnerable if Democrats attempt serious cuts in Defense Spending.
Potential Candidate: Mike Pence. Conservatives have known and loved the 2005 Human Events Man of the year for a long time. Pence, a National Security Hawk, fierce critic of Bloated Budgets, and devout Christian unites the conservative coalition in a way few politicians who happen to be Republicans can. Additionally, Pence's leadership in the successful "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" insurgency of 2008 can only help when Gas Prices inevitably rise.
2) Barbara Boxer (CA) - This race, while a longshot, is winnable. California, remember, was Ronald Reagan's home state. As the 2003 re-call election proved, a Confident Republican can go on offense with a message of unapologetic Conservatism and win (Schwarzenegger's subsequent governance is a separate topic). Ms. Boxer, while wildly popular in Berkeley and Bel Air, has always had trouble in Bakersfield and Barstow. Additionally, Boxer's longstanding support for economically catastrophic cap and trade legislation make her especially vulnerable if the Obama administration makes Global Warming legislation a top priority. Finally, voter rejection of Prop 8 proves California near as liberal as it is commonly charicatured.
Potential Candidate: Hugh Hewitt. The telegenic radio host's impeccable conservative credentials will inspire the Republican base to turn out like Crazy while his outstanding communication skills can move the state's recalcitrant independent voters rightward. Additionally, his nationally syndacated radio audience gives him a built in fundraising network for a seat that will probably require $125 million to capture. Finally, Hewitt might be the only potential candidate who can successfully thread the immigration needle in the GOP primary.
3) Chris Dodd (CT) - Under normal circumstances, Dodd would be one of the safest Democrats in the country. Fortunately for Republicans, and to the detriment of the incumbent, Connecticut's senior Senator faces far from normal circumstances. Senator Dodd is the U.S. Senator most responsible for the current financial crisis. In 2003 DOdd recieved a loan from subprime mortgage giant Countrywide Financial's elite "Friends of [Countrywide CEO] Angelo [Mozillo]" program. Sen Dodd received a combined $781,042 in two mortgages at below market interest rates. Coincidentally, Dodd blocked Republican efforts to crack down on corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose mortgage securitization process disproportionately benefitted Countrywide. If current economic difficulties continue or worsen (the latter of which will probably occur), Dodd's personal role in creating the financial crisis will leave him vulnerable in what is otherwise a deep blue state.
Potential Candidate: Larry Kudlow. If, in economically challenging times, you still believe that free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity, then the popular CNBC host is the strongest potential candidate to take on Dodd. The former Reagan economic advisor and supply side guru has owned a weekend property in the state for many years, which he could make his primary residence in about five minutes of paperwork. Kudlow has been erudite and relentless in explaining how the current financial crisis resulted from Government social engineering, not free-market capitalism. While Kudlow has previously made terrible lifestyle choices, his subsequent 14 year recovery is a quintessentially American tale of redemption. Finally, Kudlow's long history on Wall Street would allow him to raise ample funds in what would be an extraordinarily expensive race.
4) Byron Dorgan (ND) - Senator Dorgan faces a many potential pitfalls. To begin, the incoming majority will be far more liberal on social issues than Senator Dorgan's state. This leaves Dorgan vulnerable on any far left abortion agenda advocated by democrats. With the recent discovery of a major oil shale deposit in the state, environmentalist control of the federal government might not resonate either. With his party in unified Control of government, Senator Dorgan will be unable to distance himself from his party's liberal leadership.
Potential Candidate: Gov. John Hoeven. While unknown nationally, the popular governor was overwhelmingly re-elected this year with 74"% of the vote. The successful governor is a solid, across-the-board conservative with impeccable pro-life credentials. Given the state's conservatism, the majority party's lurch to the left and the incumbants ties to the Green mafia and the subprime mess, Gov. Hoeven is positioned to win this seat should he choose to run.
5) Russ Feingold (WI) - Despite his unassuming demeanor, the Gentleman from Wisconsin has established a voting record better suited for the Berkeley City Council than a midwestern senator. In 2001, Feingold irresponsibly voted against the PATRIOT ACT, an essential counterterrorism tool that has prevented a repeat of 9/11. In 2002, Feingold, along with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), led the greatest assault on the first amendment since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 under the guise of "bi-partisan campaign finance reform." During his 2004 re-election, Senator Feingold used the afore mentioned act to muzzle the political speech of Wisconsin right to life; Feingold's target in this case leaves him vulnerable to any far left abortion agenda pursued by the majority party. While Senator Feingold's Phish concert liberalism goes over well in the MSNBC newsroom, it leaves Feingold dramatically out of step with midwestern values.
Potential Candidate: Rep. Paul Ryan. Much like Congressman Pence, Congressman Ryan stayed true to conservatism even when the Hastert-led Republican Congress abandoned it. Articulate and telegenic, Congressman Ryan was just re-elected in a district that went for Obama with a message of unapologetic conservative reform. Ryan has advanced conservative solutions to middle class economic anxieties on issues such as education, medical care, and retirement security. Running against an incumbent whose views are to the left of most Madison drum circles, Congressman Ryan's conservative reformism will resonate with voters.
6) Blanche Lincoln (AR) - Another potential casualty of the liberal social policies of the Obama administration is the Senior Senator from Arkansas. A moderate in the mold of former Governor Bill Clinton, Ms. Lincoln nontheless hails from a socially conservative state that could serve as ground zero in a backlash against liberal social policies of the Obama administration. Any attempt to pack the federal judiciary with liberal judges could give Arkansans pause about unfettered Democrat control of government in a state that in 2004 voted overwhelmingly against homosexual marriage.
Potential Candidate: Mike Huckabee. The popular former Governor and Presidential Candidate is the natural selection (evolution pun intended) in this culturally conservative and economically nervous state. The Baptist Minister could appeal to voters as a check on President Obama's judicial appointments. Additionally, as a former Presidential candidate, Gov. Huckabee would have access to a national fundraising network among evangelical Christians. Finally, his national profile would increase dramatically interest in this race.
7) Patty Murray (WA) - Where abortion threatens Democrats in the midwest, Federal Land use policies threaten Democrats in the west. If the Obama administration, like the Clinton and Carter administrations before it, impose environmental regulations that significantly impede economic activity on Federal Lands, a severe voter backlash could topple the Gentlelady. Finally, Ms. Murray's support for cap and trade legislation could cost her support in economically troubled times.
Potential Candidate: Congressman Dave Reichart. The tenacious former Sheriff of King County, perennial Democrat target, has consistently won narrow victories in his Seattle area district that voted for Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. While Congressman Reichart's tactical brilliance is unquestioned, his appeal to conservatives lies in the fact that he consistently wins in a majority Democrat district without grandstanding against his own party. Reichart's libertarian style conservatism allows him to compete in socially liberal Washington while also allowing his to oppose taxpayer funded abortion for budgetary reasons.
8) Barbara Mikulski (MD) - As a very liberal Democrat from a very liberal state, Mikulski should be heavily favored for re-election. Unfortunately for the incumbent, she is left vulnerable by a speaking style and public persona that can charitably be described as boring, leaving her vulnerable to a charismatic challenger.
Potential Candidate: Michael Steele is the only reason Republicans have a shot at this seat. Given this reality, Steele should run for the Senate, not the RNC chair. The former Lieutenant Governor and current head of GOPAC gave a rousing address at this year's Republican National Convention where he spoke movingly about how conservative reforms like school choice benefit lower and middle income families, especially minorities. Steele gives Republicans the opportunity to craft a reformist economic message that resonates across racial and ethnic lines. Steele also is the only opportunity Republicans have to neutralize the racial issue heading into 2012. Steele is a special talent and Republicans should do everything they can to keep him in the national spotlight.
9) Harry Reid (NV) - Republicans have a history of successfully targeting Democrat congressional leadership. As Reid has become an increasingly partisan national figure, his home state approval ratings have plummeted. While an influx of liberals from California moved the state to Obama in 2008, Reid's tenure as majority leader has provided his opponents with plenty of ammunition to use against him. In addition, given his leadership role in the Washington D.C.'s majority party, Reid is especially vulnerable to the land use issues that will threaten all Western Democrats. 95% of the land in Nevada is owned by the Federal Government.
Potential Candidate: Melody "Mimi Miyagi" Damayo. The lack of another standout conservative reformer in the state paves the way for Damayo, who placed third in the Republican Primary for Governor in 2006. While her previous work as an actress in the adult entertainment industry will give many conservatives pause, no one can deny that she was a wildly successful entreprenneur in an intensely competitive industry. Besides, having a Porn Star on the ticket can only help a party that just lost among 18-29 year old men.
10) Ken Salazar (CO) - Much like his fellow Western Democrats, Federal Land Use issues pose a deep threat to the re-election effort of Colorado's senior senator. Coloradans have never liked Federal Bureaucrats telling them how to use resources found in their own communities. Additionally, Obama's fiscal policies threaten Salazar in this historically tax-o-phobic state.
Potential Candidate: Anyone but Tancredo. Given that this race will probably turn on either national or regional concerns, any Republican with a pulse should make this race competitive. That said, Tom Tancredo is a lunatic with a massive ego who will lose this seat if nominated.
Keeping a majority coalition together is one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in politics. Republicans learned this lesson in 2005; Democrats could easily learn it next year. As issues change, so do the desires of voters. The fact that issues and times change puts structural limits on any political majority. Additionally, given that Democrats now control the executive branch, certain issues Republicans used successfully in the 1990's become relevant again. If Republican are smart, recruit good candidates, and expand the electoral playing field, 2010 can be a very good year.