A parliamentary - style majority?
by corph, Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 09:42:13 AM EDT
We've seen what's been happening over the past couple of days. As the gap continues to widen between Obama and McCain, cable news blabbermouths (even the otherwise impressive and insightful Chuck Todd) have compromised their objectivity tweaking the electoral maps to make the battlegrounds look more competitive than they really are. Clinton-Dole like races are bad for ratings. What should be more relevant, however, is how the Senate races correlate with the presidential numbers.
Democrats currently hold 50 seats + Lieberman in the Senate (I'm counting Bernie Sanders as a Dem because he's a better Dem than many nominal Dems).
The following races are seats currently held by Republicans but where the Democratic candidate has a lead outside the margin of error:
- VA (Warner)
- NM (Udall)
- CO (Udall)
- OR (Merkley)
- NH (Shaheen)
- NC (Hagan)
- AK (Begich)
On top of that, the most vulnerable Democrat is now Frank Launtenberg, meaning that both Landrieu and Johnson have now slipped in to safe territory. It's unlikely the NRSC will want to spend scarce resources going after the always-elusive New Jersey pickup. Lautenberg is still given a 98% chance to win according to Fivethirtyeight.
So, that leaves us with a minimal likely outcome of 57 Dems + Lieberman. Now, the remaining competitive races are also all for Republican-held seats, in order of likelhood to flip:
- MN (Franken)
- MS (Musgrove)
- GA (Martin)
- KY (Lunsford)
If 2 of these competitive seats flip, it would take every Senate Republican + Lieberman to block cloture on any bill, assuming no Democratic defections. Note that historically, many wavering Senators have been willing to vote with their party against a bill, but not to filibuster it. Can you see Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter all refusing to cut off debate on a Democratic health care bill? If three of them flip, Lieberman becomes irrelevant and centrists like Ben Nelson hold all the cards on controversial party-line votes, such as one similar to the 1993 Deficit reduction Act (although I believe Budget acts are not subject to filibuster).
If three seats flip, a President Obama would have the equivalent of a Parliamentary Majority, only without the party discipline. The only check on parliamentary majority power, outside of a major party caucus revolt, is the prospect of alienating voters in the next election. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would almost certainly be allowed to expire. Any energy or banking bill could be tailored exactly to the Democrat's collectivel liking. Republicans would be reduced to offering minor amendments and using the occasional wedge on cultural or tax issues from time to time.
How likely is this? Fivethirtyeight's current projection gives Martin a 23% chance to upset Chambliss for seat #60, and only a 5% chance for McCain to win the election. It's no wonder the RNC has decided to try to save Senate seats instead. As for McCain, he might want to rethink a bare-knuckles strategy that will more likely lose him support than gain it. It's his turn to show to what extent he's in this for himself and his aspirations. His party is teetering on the brink of irrelevancy.
With a concerted effort, the RNC should be able to hold on to GA and MS. It will be interesting to see to what extent they can swallow their pride in the upcoming weeks.