Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Dem Senate depatures coming sooner than expected, speaks to long road ahead for Dems

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As much as we like to think it’s 2011, politically we are in 2012.

Days after the 112th Congress kicks off, we already have two announced departures from the Senate for the 2012 campaign.

Traditionally, senators in the minority party leave in droves. But as we’ve learned from this cycle — which just started — and the last cycle, the majority party is the ones where senators are leaping off the ship.

A little known cognizant in the 2010 campaign: Republicans had more seats to defend and open seats to defend, yet the GOP made significant gains in the Senate — 40 to 48. Now, the shoe is on the other foot: Dems have more seats to defend in 2012. And usually, open seats are harder to defend.

But the seats of Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) might offset each other, and that still isn’t good news for the Dems.

Of course, many on the left are thrilled that Lieberman is throwing in the towel. The blasting of President Clinton over the impeachment to the stunning news of being named as Al Gore’s running mate to his 2004 presidential campaign to supporting the GOP presidential nominee in 2008: Democratic people are sick of Joe Lieberman.

Yes, on some votes (read: don’t ask, don’t tell), Lieberman has been in the Dem corner, but many on the left feel that they can do a lot better from that seat from Connecticut. Of course, the best candidate to run for that seat would have been current Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who won Chris Dodd’s seat in 2008. Ned Lamont would be more of an ironic winner, for those who remember the 2006 Senate campaign, but there will be established Dem politicians who will run for that open seat.

So, despite the concerns, the Dems feel like they can get that seat to be much more Democratic in 2012.

Most people might not be able to tell much of a difference between Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, and figure that the two long-time North Dakota senators are fairly similar. The one element that will likely be similar if an established Dem Senate seat turning into a no-contest win for the Republicans.

John Hoeven will able to easily win Dorgan’s Senate seat in 2010 and the GOP is odds on favorite to win Conrad’s seat in 2012. And don’t look for the DNC to give much help in North Dakota, short of a miracle.

On paper, a 1-1 deadlock would be good for the Dems. But, given the number of seats they will need to defend, North Dakota was one that they wish they didn’t have to worry about in 2012.

All this would be better for the Democratic Party if they felt that a President Obama will help them on the ballot in 2012. After all, there were a few coattails – mostly in the House – in 2008 for Obama.

But the left was very excited about the 2008 campaign, and even as President Obama will be on the ballot once again, the Dem voters may not be as excited about 2012. One reason is the perception that the White House, similar to 1994, didn’t work hard enough to help Dems win Congressional seats.

Republicans never seem to have a problem getting excited about elections; still confusing why Democrats have to be “excited” in order to get to the polls.

Hearing the news so early in the 2012 campaign mean we’re in for a long road, and unless there are surprise GOP departures in the right states, this will be a long strange trip for the party that still holds the Senate – for now.

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Written by democracysoup

January 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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