Thursday, October 09, 2008

Filibuster-proof Senate

The Democrats appear to have an outside shot at a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate next session by winning enough races to bring their total to 60.
Right now the Senate is split 49-49 with two Independents who caucus with the Democrats — the Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and the Neo-Con Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
It is unclear whether Lieberman will continue to caucus with the Democrats next year in light of his support for John McCain this election season, going so far as to speak at the Republican National Convention last month. A lot of Democrats want to kick Lieberman out of the caucus and strip him of his chairmanship.
Since the Republicans are not likely to win this election, the next best thing that could happen for Lieberman is if the Democrats come within one vote of that magic 60-vote number. Then they would have to continue holding their noses and allowing him to chair a committee so that he would stay in the caucus.

Here is how the Senate races are shaping up so far:
There are no Democrats in danger of losing their seats. Even Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, once considered to be the weakest link, is running well ahead of her Republican opponent.
Republicans, on the other hand, are in a world of hurt. Two formerly Republican seats are already considered to be locked up by Democrats - Mark Warner in Virginia and Tom Udall in New Mexico.
Two more are considered highly likely to flip to the Democrats — Mark Udall in Colorado and Jean Shaheen in New Hampshire.
Then there are four more races that are very close but have recently been trending in favor of the Democrats:
Kay Hagan in North Carolina threatening to topple Elizabeth Dole;
Mark Begich in Alaska facing the scandal-plagued Ted Stevens;
Jeff Merkley of Oregon has moderate Republican Gordon Smith on the run;
and Al Franken of Minnesota has taken a slim lead over Norm Coleman.

If the Democrats win all these contests it would be considered a fantastic triumph for the party. But it would still leave them one short of the 60-vote supermajority even counting the two independents.

So now we turn to four long-shot races that look like they could flip if there is a tidal wave of support for Democrats on election day. Those include Ronnie Musgrove in Mississippi; Bruce Lunsford in Kentucky; Jim Martin in Georgia and Rick Noriega in Texas.
If the Democrats pick up one of those, they have 60wL (with Lieberman). If they win two of the four they have 60 and they can ditch Lieberman.

Realistically, I am not getting my hopes up that high. But the fact that this scenario is even possible now is quite remarkable.

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