November 17, 2010


Why the Dems Could Lose the Senate Next (Samuel P. Jacobs, 11/17/10, Politico)

“If we are monolithic and liberal, then we won’t be the majority party,” says former Rep. Dan Glickman, who served as Bill Clinton’s agriculture secretary, and knows from experience what it’s like to serve as a Democrat from the red state of Kansas. And if Webb, Tester, and Casey are ousted, then the Democrats may be guilty of the same sort of ideological purification they tend to mock when Republicans are the ones doing it. [...]

In Virginia, Sen. Jim Webb has yet to commit to running for a second term. He told Real Clear Politics last week that he’s "still sorting that out… I'm not saying I'm not." It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Webb, who came to Congress with an Emmy and a number of well-received novels to his name, did step down. For one thing, he hasn’t done too well in the clubby world of the U.S. Senate. Upon arrival, he earned the clucking of George Will, who called Webb a “pompous poseur” and a “boor” after the diffident senator-to-be lashed out at President Bush who had asked after Webb’s son, a soldier deployed in Iraq.

Since then, Webb has proven no less intemperate with members of his own party. This summer, he penned an explosive editorial in The Wall Street Journal, decrying affirmative action and civil-rights legislation that he said unfairly harmed whites. Webb was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy and, at present, is one of the last Reagan Democrats of prominence in the party. Webb—or any Virginia Democrat—would be running into quite a headwind in 2012. Virginians just unseated three Democratic House members, and former Sen. George Allen, whose “Macaca” misstep cost him the race against Webb by fewer than 10,000 votes in 2006, would be a formidable opponent in 2012, according to Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling.

Bob Casey, another member of the class of 2006, is another example of the Dems’ endangered species. Casey, whose father was governor of Pennsylvania, is the country’s most prominent pro-life Democrat. Casey Senior famously challenged Bill Clinton’s health-care plan in 1994 because it would finance abortions. Like Webb, Casey is part of a dying breed of Democrat—those who support progressive economic policies but remain socially conservative.

Right now, Casey’s approval ratings are awful; only 36 percent of voters view him favorably. Republicans just picked up five House seats in Pennsylvania, along with the governor’s office and a new Senate seat. Still, all is not yet lost for the Dems; the state’s weak GOP bench means Casey actually has a better chance than his iconoclastic colleagues of winning a second term two years from now.

They also have both Nelsons and Joe Manchin at risk, from the center-right, and Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, the putative Independents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 17, 2010 6:22 AM
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