The Senate: A Long Way From Sixty

Posted by Chris Geidner
November 2, 2010 4:55 PM |

It was not too long ago that the Democrats had -- finally -- seated the 100th senator: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). That magic 60-vote count didn't last.

As 2009 became 2010, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced his retirement and the expected loss of his seat to the Republicans -- setting in place a challenge for the Democrats to pick up a retiring Republican's seat to hold onto the filibuster-proof majority.

Then, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) took his seat later that month, and the Democrats lost their 60-seat hold. With the retirement announcement of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) in February, the Senate majority for the Democrats continued to recede.

Tonight, few analysts foresee a Republican majority at the end of the night. The 60 seats held by the Democrats just one year ago, however, are a thing of the past.

With the expected loss of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to John Boozman (R), 10 Seante races remaining interesting heading into the results: Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Of the incumbents, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) -- facing Carly Fiorina (R) -- and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- facing Dino Rossi (R) -- are the most likely to hold onto their seats. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)'s race against Ken Buck (R-Colo.) is expected to be exceptionally close, meanwhile, and Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) are the most likely Democratic incumbents -- other then Lincoln -- to lose, to Sharon Angle (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), respectively.

The open seats in Illinois -- between Alexi Giannoulos (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R) -- and Pennsylvania -- between Rep. Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R) -- are expected to be close, with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) likely to succeed in winning the seat in his state.

Finally, the Republican is likely to win in both three-way races -- although both races could be interesting to watch. In Alaska, Joe Miller (D) is favored, though not by much, to beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski -- who is running a write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary -- and Scott McAdams (D). In Florida, Marco Rubio (R) is expected to beat Gov. Charlie Crist, running an independent bid with some Democratic support, and Kendrick Meek (D).

At the end of the night, it also is noteworthy that the winners of some of the Senate races -- Illinois, Delaware and West Virginia -- will take their seats as soon as is practicable after the election. This is important to recall as discussion of any lame-duck vote on the National Defense Authorization Act -- and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal measure contained within it -- occurs.

In Colorado, however, the appointed senator's position after the election is less clear -- at least according to Buck's camp.

When asked what would be the result of a Buck victory Tuesday, Buck campaign spokesman Owen Loftus told Metro Weekly on Tuesday, "That's to be determined. Colorado law doesn't mention it, so I am sure there should be some discussion after the election. Historically, [if an appointed senator loses] they give up their seat and the governor appoints who won the election."

A message seeking comment was left with the Bennet campaign.

In Florida, Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fl.) is expected to serve out the remainer of his term.

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