Republicans Are So Extreme, Democrats Might Just Clinch The Senate

When pundits began sizing up the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, most favored Republicans to gain control of the chamber. This wasn’t exactly going out on a limb; Republicans gained seven seats in 2010 and need to flip just four in 2012 — indeed, if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, they could control the Senate with just three more votes. Given that Democrats were defending 23 seats, while Republicans were defending just 10, it seemed highly unlikely that Democrats could manage to hold onto control of the Senate, even if President Barack Obama managed to win re-election.

But as Vizzini found out, inconceivable does not always mean what one thinks it means. As the election has moved off paper and onto the campaign trail, Republicans have found themselves facing an increasingly uphill climb if they hope to take power in the Senate for the first time since 2007. Indeed, Democrats now have a reasonably good chance of actually gaining seats in the Senate, something dismissed as nigh-impossible not long ago.

How have Democrats managed to gain the inside track? It’s a combination of unforced errors by the GOP and savvy politics by the Democrats.

Extremism Hurts GOP

Democrats have benefited tremendously from the GOP’s lurch to the right. One Republican seat now leaning Democratic is in Indiana, where Republicans defenestrated Sen. Dick Lugar in favor of very conservative State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock ousted the “too moderate” Lugar in the primary, and pledged to fight a bitter struggle against Democrats. “I hope to build a conservative majority in the U.S. Senate so bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government,” Mourdock said, embracing the take-no-prisoners ethos of the Tea Party.

Not surprisingly, moderates in Indiana balked at a candidate actively opposed to reaching across the aisle. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., holds a narrow lead over Mourdock, and is slightly favored to take a seat held by Lugar since 1977.

Meanwhile, extremism has hurt the chances of GOP pickups in two winnable states. When Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., announced that he was retiring, few gave Democrats much hope of holding the seat. The race has been much closer than expected, however, with former State Treasurer Heidi Heitkamp neck-in-neck with freshman Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D. While polling has been hard to come by, recent internal polls by the Heitkamp campaign show her ahead, as did a June Mason-Dixon poll. Only Rasmussen has shown Berg ahead since the primary.

Of course, the biggest giveaway of a pick-up opportunity for the Republicans was in Missouri, where few gave Sen. Claire McCaskill much of a chance of winning reelection. Fortunately for McCaskill, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., demonstrated that his parents probably should have been more clear about where babies come from. Since Akin declared that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” the race has gone from a sure lose to a likely win for McCaskill, who has consistently led Akin since September.

Incumbent Women Running Strong

It’s not just McCaskill who’s likely to return to the Senate. Democrats have also benefited from the strength of their female candidates running for reelection.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is running in a state that gave Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., a win by less than a thousand votes in 2008. Right now, she’s running 26 points ahead of State Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Farmington. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., holds a 16-point lead over Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., who thought it would be a good idea to launch his campaign with a racist ad. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., holds a 16-point lead. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., holds a 23-point lead. And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., holds a ridiculous 39-point lead over challenger Wendy Long.

These races haven’t just helped Democrats by taking potential pick-ups off the table. They’ve also helped by allowing Democrats to focus their energy on tight races in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Virginia and Arizona. Every dollar Democrats don’t have to spend in Minnesota can be spent somewhere else. The strength of female Democratic senators is helping the party as a whole.

Close Races Breaking for Democrats

There are still some very close races, of course. In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., has used his reputation as a moderate to try to hold off a stiff challenge by Elizabeth Warren. Former DNC Chair Tim Kaine is having to hold off a stiff challenge from former Sen. George Allen to hold on to the seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb. In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., faces a tough challenge from former Gov. Tommy Thompson. In Connecticut, Rep. Chris Murphy is facing a tough fight from WWE executive Linda McMahon.

All of those races are very close, but at the moment, all lean toward Democrats. In Wisconsin, that lean is starting to get close to solid. Add in Montana, where Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., has pulled into a tie with Denny Rehberg, and Democrats are in very good shape.

GOP Path to Majority Narrow

Republicans now face an electoral map that is very unfriendly to them. Right now, only one state appears certain to flip into the GOP column — Nebraska, where State Rep. Deb Fischer, R-Valentine, appears likely to defeat former Sen. Bob Kerrey. Unfortunately for Republicans, that gain is offset by a likely win in Maine by former Gov. Angus King, who is running as an independent but who is expected to caucus with Democrats.

In order to win control of the Senate, Republicans will have to win all the toss-up states — Nevada, Montana, and Arizona — left on the board. In addition they’ll have to win at least three (and given the state of the presidential race, probably four) lean-Democrat seats. Even if Republicans manage to right the ship and hold on to Indiana, and even if Berg manages to beat Heitkamp in North Dakota, Republicans still have to find a way to win two of the three closest remaining states — Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Warren leads by about 4 percent), Connecticut (Where Murphy is up by 1-2 percent), and Virginia (where Kaine leads by more than 5 percent).

It’s a daunting task, and at this point, it’s just as likely that Democrats will manage to win in Arizona or Montana or Nevada (or all three), and end up expanding their majority to 55 or 56 seats. That result seemed inconceivable not long ago. Today it seems likely.


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Image Credit: Gaffke Photography


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Republicans are extreme? Democrats took God and Jerusalem out of their platform this year. Then when it was found out, and they tried to put them back in they booed! Can you imagine booing God?

I really don't understand how a Christian can be a Democrat any more. They need to read their Bibles. God is VERY clear about homosexuality and murder (abortion).

Robert K.
Robert K4 years ago

So make it be.

FWIW. Harry Reid has admitted he screwed up by not ending the filibuster rule and may well do so this time.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

The problem is that unless 56 become 60 it won't matter a damned bit. Neither will it matter if 183 doesn't become 218 in one hell of a hurry.

Cynthia T.
C T4 years ago

If the citizens of Massachusetts favor Obama by a considerable margin, doesn't that TELL YOU SOMETHING? If he had been such a great governor in the past, wouldn't you think the people in the state for which he was governor would support him? They don't...clearly.

Robert K.
Robert K4 years ago

Paula M, when polls ask whether you're liberal or conservative more people claim to be conservative, but when they ask about specific things, the liberal positions swamp the conservative ones in most cases.

I would agree that some conservative positions are good, but what you need to realize is that there are very few conservatives left in Republican politics, they are almost entirely extremist radicals, and everything they push damages America. The last true conservative was Barry Goldwater and now he's often vilified by the party. And please don't bring up Ron Paul. He's right regarding the fed and war, but on every other issue he's bat crap crazy and a bigot as well.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

Let your voice be heard VOTE

Vine Medium
Vine Medium4 years ago

Hi from Australia, We too are hoping the US election will bring in more progressive actions about protecting the environment. As a global community we have to tackle this head on. It is not going away. Gee, just the fact that plastic is now in the Antarctic and being consumed by plankton should sound a warning bell to everyone around the world. We're praying the US public can see we are so close to the tipping point and leaving a rubbish dump of a world for future generations. Choose wisely.

Love and Light

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N4 years ago


Since the beginning of 2008, Fairfax Financial has spent $320,000 on lobbying in Washington, DC, and its issues include how derivatives are regulated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

The company is the subject of an IRS whistleblower's complaint, according to the New York Times, alleging that it received an unwarranted tax break of $400 million between 2003 and 2006, a claim Fairfax disputes.

The $1 million donation will likely be used for attack ads against President Barack Obama. And with less than five weeks until Election Day, $1 million is no insignificant amount. It's enough to buy at least a week or two's worth of ads in critical media markets. It also represents one-seventh of the money Restore Our Future collected in August.

Lovell said the company decided to donate because it favors Romney's stance on tax policy. ...

Isn't it nice to know that at least the derivatives investors made a killing on America's home loss/homelessness in the banking scams?

I wonder who else profited?

Yet another reason why self-interests - looking very hard at those from the corporate and religious pools - must be kept out of public office...

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N4 years ago


Most of the regulations on political spending by subsidiaries of foreign companies were written before corporations were legally allowed to fund political advertisements or donate to super-PACs. And Republican members of the Federal Election Commission have thwarted the implementation of new rules regarding the practice.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is among those concerned about foreign-controlled corporations "exploiting loopholes in existing law" to influence US elections. He calls the practice a "direct threat to our democracy."

"You can bet that wholly owned subsidiaries of foreign commercial entities have an agenda when they spend millions to sway the outcome of an election," Whitehouse told the Center for Public Integrity in a statement. "And you can bet that agenda is not promoting the interests of middle-class American voters." ...

... Watsa has been called the Canadian Warren Buffett and his companies have flourished.

On its website, Fairfax boasts that it is "results oriented" and "not political." It reported more than $33 billion in assets and nearly $7.5 billion in revenue last year, despite a "record level of catastrophe claims." OdysseyRe reported assets of $10.6 billion at the end of 2011.

Watsa and his company cashed in on the collapse of the US housing market by investing in complex financial instruments known as derivatives, according news accounts.

Since the beginning of 2008, Fairfax Financial has spent $320,000 on lob