A parliamentary - style majority?

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).

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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.

Tags: 2008 election, filibuster-proof, Senate (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

What McCain Needs to do

After tonight, when it becomes apparent that McCain has very little hope of winning, he must preserve his reputation for historians. He must hit the high road, and run a very positive high spirited campaign until the end.

by Zzyzzy 2008-10-15 09:58AM | 0 recs
I still hope

his instinct is to do just that.  I don't think he will, however.

McCain, like Clinton, has become a captive of his advisors.  How many of them care about his long-term repuation vs. the slight possibility of winning, or even the petty satisfaction of doing damage to those who bested you?

I see his campaign flailing nastily to the very end, with only a few bouts of reason and civility.

Ah well.  I can feel for McCain to some degree: he was dealt a poor hand and had to play it best he could, although he made some poor decisions.  I feel nothing but glee for the massive failure of Republican campaigning philosophy, however.

by corph 2008-10-15 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: A parliamentary - style majority?

Budgets are not subject to filibusters and require only a majority. Therefore in most budgetary matters Obama will (at least in the short term) get most of what he wants. The biggest concern is health care. Clinton considered including health care in the budget in 1993-94 but was blocked by Robert Byrd. I wonder if the calculations on the hill will be similar this time.

by thirdestate 2008-10-15 11:52AM | 0 recs

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