Senate Races

Rich Galen

11/1/2010 8:59:32 AM - Rich Galen
The story changed. After attempting to convince us for the past nine months that Democrats were merely taking a breath, playing rope-a-dope, biding their time, and just gathering themselves for the final push in which they would really surprise us, we are now being told that Republicans are not going to do as well as they should have done.

No matter what happens tomorrow.

Here's a reality check. Yes, it is true that the party of the President historically loses seats in a mid-term election; no one believed - this time a year ago - that Republicans would be a shoo-in to take control of the House and a couple of upsets away from taking over the U.S. Senate.

In fact, because at the beginning of the cycle the GOP had more Senate seats to defend (18) than Democrats (15), the conventional wisdom was that Harry Reid would probably have a stronger hand than his 60-40 margin earlier in the 111th Congress.

As you may have heard me say before, United States Senators take their title "Senator," which has been handed down from the Romans, very seriously. If they thought they could get away with it, they would wear togas to work every day.

Senators are elected for six years. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution states:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

I only point that out because you may have been absent the day Mr. Mirandi explained to his 11th grade social studies class that prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, U.S. Senators were "chosen by the Legislature" of each state, not by popular vote.

The realities of a six year term means that most Senators dutifully go home on most weekends for about their first year; then they go home about once a month for their second year; years three through five it's a couple of times a year; and then in year six they return to their every weekend routine as they run for re-election and hope the folks back home forget they hadn't seen them in a while.

Meanwhile, the in-state political team which the Senator had assembled to run (and win) in the first place has long-since drifted off to do other things on behalf of other people, and so the Senator is left with only a staff of professional fawners who daily whisper in the Senator's ear the career enhancing phrase: "You are the fairest in the land" from whom to draw political expertise.

On the other side; a sitting U.S. Senator often finds him- or herself running against a statewide office-holder like an Attorney General or Secretary of State; or against a sitting Member of Congress who has been going home every weekend since he was a freshman.

Finally, because there are only 33 or 34 Senate seats (depending upon the cycle) who are up for election (37 this year because of specials in Delaware, Illinois, West Virginia, and New York) Senate challengers of any credibility are "in the game" from primary night onward.

With 435 House races, voters may never even see the name of a House challenger until they pull the curtain behind them in the voting booth and look at their choices.

As the scene shifts to 2012, the Democrats will have 21 seats to defend of the 33 to be contested. Maybe defending more seats won't mean anything, but I think it will.

My best guess is Republicans will pick up eight Senate seats and go into the 112th Congress at 49-51. I also think the GOP will pick up about 50 seats for a majority of 229-206.

Find me someone who predicted that 18 months ago.