November 9, 2010


Republicans May Yet Have Upper Hand in Senate (Gerald F. Seib, 11/09/10, WSJ)

More important, among those 23 Democrats who face voters in 2012 are a handful of incumbents from the kind of moderate to conservative states where Democrats took a beating last week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jon Tester of Montana, Jim Webb of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Joe Manchin, who just won a Senate race in West Virginia by separating himself from President Barack Obama and his party's congressional leaders, also faces voters again in two years because he was elected only to fill out an unexpired term.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, looks at this field and thinks he may see some votes for his side. He points in particular to his desire to roll back parts of this year's big health bill.

"There are 23 Democrats up in 2012 and only nine Republicans," he said in an interview. "I think there is a widespread belief on the other side of the aisle that [the health bill] was a huge mistake. There could be, who knows, a growing number of Democrats who think that was the wrong thing to do."

Mr. McConnell won't engage when asked whether Republicans will take the next step and try to persuade any moderate Democrats to switch parties, which has happened in the past when the winds shift. But he adds: "It doesn't require changing parties to change your mind."

So maybe there also are Democrats prepared to drift to the Republican side on issues beyond health—say, on spending cuts, tax levels and a new energy program built around such items as electric cars and clean-coal technology. On selected issues, that means Mr. McConnell actually might find it at least as easy as the Democrats' Mr. Reid to assemble a working majority.

Of course, there are distinct limits to how much that means in the ever-messy Senate. In a body where any 41 members can mount and sustain a filibuster to stop action, having a bare majority, real or functional, has limited impact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 9, 2010 12:05 AM
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