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December 08, 2008

GOP Senators Have More Even Playing Field in 2010

Good news?

There sure doesn’t seem to be any rest for weary Senate Republican strategists, who are trying to plot a comeback in 2010 for their party after two consecutive miserable election cycles.

They can take some consolation in the fact that the GOP will not have the kind of steeply slanted playing field it had to deal with this year. In the flip side of the party’s successes in its better times of 2002, the Republicans ended up defending 23 seats to the Democrats’ 12. That would have made it hard for them to hold their ground, even if the overall political atmosphere had not been so toxic.

The slate of regularly scheduled 2010 races gives the Republicans another defensive chore, though it was not nearly as big: 19 Republican-held seats are scheduled to be up that year to 15 Democratic-held seats. Special elections will narrow the margin further, to 19-17, because of picks President-elect Barack Obama has made for his White House team from among his former Democratic Senate colleagues.

Part of the reason for the Democrats' dominance is that they hold a lot of Senate seats in Republican territory-- Montana, the Dakotas, even blood-red Kansas. I'm not sure exactly what it takes to convince the electorate that no matter how "moderate" or "conservative" a Democratic Senator may talk, he will vote the party line in all the crucial votes, but we have to break through on this message.

The usual trick is to vote with the party on the real vote, usually a vote to close or continue debate (that is, to end or sustain a filibuster), and then vote the constituents' interests on the merits. But by then it's a foregone conclusion -- like scoring a touchdown in the last 30 seconds of a game when you're down by 35. Meaningless and cosmetic.

The GOP needs to educate the public on the power of procedural votes which are really the determinative votes on most contested matters, and then drive that message home.

It might be that the GOP hasn't wanted to do this in the past, due to the fact that their senators, of course, used this dodge as well, but with far fewer vote-splitting moderate senators in the caucus now, it's not a major concern for us anymore, alas.

There's also arranged voting -- conservative Democrats up for reelection will be allowed to cast votes against, say, a liberal judge's nomination, whereas conservative Democrats who were just reelected will suddenly embrace liberal judges... hoping their constituents will forget about such votes in five or six years' time (when they begin casting conservative votes again, and the senators formerly up for reelection now cast liberal votes). Either way, the party decides that the judge (or bill) will get enough votes to pass; they just arrange it so that those standing for reelection don't have to cast the liberal votes. At least not this cycle.

This sort of thing takes a bit of explaining and is hard to get across in an advertisement, but the GOP has to invest money in pubic education of how business actually gets done in Congress. It's pointless to argue this without laying that predicate -- Democrats will merely say "I voted conservatively on x measure when it came up for a vote on the merits," etc. Without the public being made aware of how votes are arranged to both pass a bill and allow endangered Democrats to vote according to their constituents' wishes, it's an argument that always ends in stalemate.

The trick has to be revealed so conservative voters in red states know they're being, what's the word?, bamboozled by their supposedly "conservative Democrat Senator." Run amok. That they been had.



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posted by Ace at 03:27 PM

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