Home / Dave Brockington / Lost in the Shuffle

Lost in the Shuffle

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of the senior Senator from Connecticut declining the opportunity to fail in his re-election bid is the retirement of Kent Conrad.  Lieberman’s retirement generated the news, Conrad’s is more salient for the obvious reasons.  While Conrad is not even in the suburbs of my political preferences, instinctively I’m a pragmatist; I’d rather have a right-leaning Democrat representing the 18 people of North Dakota in the United States Senate than a Republican, especially when control of the chamber is at stake.

The political map of the 2012 Senate elections suggests that control is at stake.  23 Democratic seats are up for election, against 10 Republican seats.  As this represents the results of the 2006 elections, a good year for the Democrats, several of these seats are potentially vulnerable in 2012.  Adding North Dakota to the endangered list does not come at an opportune time.  Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland should all be regarded as vulnerable.  The Democrats should “keep” Connecticut, and indeed it would likely be an upgrade from a progressive point of view, but the only seat I’d expect Democrats to possibly gain is Massachusetts (lacking some healthy exposure to the crazy in a few Republican primaries, see below).

Normally, I’d argue that we shouldn’t be all that concerned.  2012 will feature a very different electorate than 2010.  It will be more inclined to vote Democrat, and with several assumptions (the economy rebounds, the President appears successful in his dealings with the Republican House, and signature policy victories such as PPACA become embedded in the public consciousness as perhaps popular) a significantly more pro-Democratic electorate.  There were 101 million votes cast for House candidates in 2008 against 78 million in 2010.  The Republicans did win by around six million votes against that shifting electoral backdrop (the Democrats lost 29 million), which could be interpreted as a Republican high water mark (but even the Republicans shed 10 million votes between 2008 and 2010 in House elections).

However, it’s tenuous to make a turnout based argument in the context of the Senate in 2012.  The numbers from the 2006 Senate elections likewise represented an atypical Democratic year; while the dynamics of the 2012 electorate will be more pro-Democrat than 2010, it won’t be a repeat of 2008.  A saving grace might be successful primary challenges from the right to several Republican incumbents, which could replay Delaware or Nevada.

Losing North Dakota has increased the probability that the Republicans recapture the Senate in 2012.

[updates: link to 2012 Senate seats up for election added above.  I knew I was overlooking something.  also refined the House election vote comparisons between 2008 and 2010 in order to more accurately reflect reality.  Serves me to try to write the lecture I’m giving in 20 minutes and this post simultaneously.]

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