Many political observers, since Tuesday, have bemoaned Romney’s loss (probably, more accurately, Obama’s victory) in the Presidential election. For me, a much more devastating defeat was what happened in the Senate. Let’s go through the different Senate elections that were regarded as toss-ups on Election Day.
For two election seasons now, many of us were hopeful that the Senate majority would switch hands. In 2010, we were disappointed by some of the candidates nominated, and their eventual, inevitable defeat. Well, stuff happens. Whenever a new group of excitable people begins exerting its political leverage, we can expect some of them to be neophytes who are willing to proclaim publicly that they are not witches, for example.
But, I was hopeful again at the beginning of this election season. A lot of Democratic seats were up for grabs; it seemed likely that many of these could be turned over to the GOP. I also was optimistic that Republican leaders had discovered the novel notion that they should attempt to influence primaries to select candidates who had the capability of winning a general election. I was stupid enough to think that a President who had presided over four years of economic doldrums and two years of partisan contentiousness, and who ran an almost completely negative campaign would not have many coat-tails and would be more concerned with his own re-election. Finally, I believed the Citizens United decision would lead to a flow of money to each state to run ads.
Well, as a Monday morning quarterback, it’s pretty easy to see why I was so wrong. First, the only Democratic seat won was that in Nebraska, where Bob Kerrey thought that if he moved back to Nebraska for a few months, he might never have to go back again, once seated in DC. Second, the GOP Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, it appears, is not even the most powerful Senator in his own state and fears the influence of Rand Paul if he should too directly oppose him. So, we ended up with a number of silly old male candidates who decided that they should make a point of discussing rape. Third, it turned out that a massive GOTV effort by Democrats for the President also enabled his Senators to run better than expected. Finally, I’m still confused about the uselessness of all of the third party money in the campaign. It’s like Sheldon Adelson and his friends decided to show how private redistribution could work, so they just passed out hundreds of millions of their own dollars to see what a trickle-down effect could accomplish.
Indiana – Mourdock (one of the rape guys) managed to get 44.3% of the vote in Indiana. INDIANA??? The most reliably Republican state in the Midwest and he gets 4 out of every 9 votes?
Massachusetts – What chance did Scott Brown have? Obama gets 70% of the vote here; Brown gets 46%. This means that one out of every five Obama voters picked him. What more could the guy do? If Romney could have gotten 35%, Brown would have won. Was that too much to ask for a Presidential candidate to get in his own home state, where he had his campaign headquarters?
Montana – Tester, the incumbent Democrat, defeated a pretty good challenger, Denny Rehberg. The only thing that I can figure is that Tester relates to Montanans sort of like Manchin in West Virginia. He looks like them, talks like them, and tries hard not to take some wacky positions.
Nevada – Heller, the incumbent Republican held onto his seat against Berkley. Part of the reason for this can be attributed to the influx of third party money against her by Adelson. It seems that they used to be ‘close’, and Adelson spent a lot of his money to keep her out of the Senate. So I guess he can take some solace in this victory.
North Dakota – I know nothing about this race, other than North Dakota is reliably Republican, yet the Democrat , Heidi Heitkamp, won the election. If anyone knows what happened, I’d appreciate it.
Virginia – George Allen was scheduled to be the GOP Presidential nominee in 2008. Then, while running in 2006 for his Senate seat, he said something unbelievably stupid in an evolving state like Virginia. He lost that election, eventually driving the 2008 Republican presidential contest into chaos. He tried to re-start his political career, but it seems like his time is over.
Wisconsin – Like Virginia, Tommy Thompson tried to revive a moribund political career in this election. Also, like Virginia, it seems that Thompson’s time may have passed. He was a pretty good governor in his time, and it was thought that he could beat Baldwin. It was thought wrong…His opponent, Tammy Baldwin, became a minor cause celebre as the first openly gay member of the Senate.
I’m leaving out at least five other Democratic seats that could have been won in a better year or with better candidates.