In this Congress Senate Minority Leader A. Mitchell (Mitch) McConnell, Jr. (R-KY) has real power. He has 49 Republican Senators to the Democratic Majority’s 51. However, in the Senate it takes 60 votes to accomplish almost anything. The Majority often falls short of 60; thus Mitch McConnell prevails. The Majority gets angrier as it fails to achieve its objectives.
But McConnell has to worry about the next Congress. There is a real possibility that he may not have more than 41 Senators, a few of those possibly flakes. He may not be able to prevent the Majority from securing 60 votes and if he cannot prevent that his power would almost evaporate.
The landscape is as follows: all indications are that the Democrats will have a winning candidate for the Presidency and it could be that the Democratic candidate for President would win decisively. In that scenario Republican candidates for the Senate would need to overcome a Democratic candidate for the Presidency.
First, the Republicans are defending 23 seats in the Senate, the Democrats only 12.
We begin with retirees. Senator Wayne Allard won twice in Colorado but his retirement gives a real edge to Congressman Mark Udall. Colorado was reliably Republican, but not any more. Democrats already hold one Senate seat and a majority of House of Representative seats. A Udall victory is very likely.
Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who will be 81 in March, also is retiring. Former Governor Mark Warner (no relation to Senator Warner) is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Republicans most likely will have a nominating contest between Congressman Thomas F. Davis, III and former Governor James S. Gilmore, III. Warner will have the advantage. He is well liked and Virginia again is trending Democratic. Virginia already has one Democratic Senator. As with Colorado, the last Presidential race was close. Mark Warner will be difficult to defeat.
Next there is Nebraska. Two-term Senator Chuck Hagel is retiring. Nebraska is a Republican State with a propensity to elect two Democratic Senators. Nebraska already has one. Here it basically depends upon who runs. If former Senator Robert (Bob) Kerrey were the Democratic nominee he would be formidable. On the other hand if former Republican Governor Michael O. Johanns were to run he might be able to win.
Then look at Senator Lindsey Graham’s numbers in South Carolina. He supported President George W. Bush’s immigration bill. Many voters have not forgiven him. He may face a primary.
Senator Elizabeth Hanford Dole’s numbers in North Carolina are not exactly inspiring. A strong Democrat possibly could defeat her.
Then there is Senator John Sununu. New Hampshire was a Republican State—not any more. Former Governor Jeanne Sheehan is leading Sununu in the polls by double digits. Sununu, although extremely bright and energetic, is almost certain to go down to defeat.
Next is Minnesota. Senator Norm Coleman has performed well as a Republican Senator. The only way he will be re-elected is if Al Franken is the Democratic nominee. Franken has a serious primary. The outcome of that primary likely will determine the outcome of the election.
And there is Alaska. Eighty-year-old Senator Ted Stevens is up for re-election. Normally this would not be a contest. But the FBI is investigating his dealings with a company which made repairs to his home. The FBI also is investigating Stevens’ son, a former Alaska State Senator. Voters have not been kind to legislators under investigation. Unless the FBI gives Stevens a clean bill of health, which is unlikely, Stevens is likely to be in big trouble come election day.
Only one Democratic Senator appears vulnerable—Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. She has been able to pull out tight races twice before. But the demographics of Louisiana have changed since Katrina. This time a strong Republican could defeat her.
It looks as if in a worse case scenario Republicans might lose seven and gain one. That would leave McConnell with just 43 seats. That is an unlikely number to prevent the Majority from attaining 60 votes. In short, it goes not took good for Republicans in 2008 in the Senate. That is unfortunate, as McConnell has been doing a very credible job as Minority Leader.