As the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony commences on Friday, Vice President Joseph Biden will be halfway around the globe, helping with the administration's foreign policy "pivot" to Asia and smoothing out our recently prickly relations with China.
Still, it's not difficult to imagine Biden's Christmas wish for next year's midterm elections: a 50-50 Senate.
No longer the administration's below-the-radar diplomat and ceremonial substitute, Biden would immediately become the Senate's partisan tiebreaker and the Democratic Party's most visible champion during the last two years of President Obama's term. These high-profile roles would not only provide him with the opportunity to showcase his decades of legislative negotiating experience in the Senate, but also help him steal away the national spotlight from two of his possible 2016 Democratic presidential competitors: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
But could this really happen? You bet. All it takes is a Republican net gain of five rather than six seats to turn Biden into the Democrats' "go-to-guy."
And this result, given the specific races in question, does not seem that far-fetched of a possibility. While Republicans have gained on the generic ballot question over this past month and Obama's approval rating has declined to about 40 percent, GOP candidates would have to prevail six of the seven most competitive seats currently held by Democrats (Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia) and not lose the most competitive seat currently held by Republicans (Georgia).
Analysts tend to agree that the Republicans are likely to pick-up the three open seats where Democrats are retiring: Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Further, as difficult as the Georgia primary contest may be for Republicans, with Obama's approval rating in the thirties in the South, it seems likely the Peach State will stay in the GOP column. That leaves four seats in red states where incumbent Democrats are running for re-election (Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina).
Though terrifically vulnerable because of her prior vote supporting passage of the ACA, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has survived more than one tough contest. Further, Republicans are having a hard time settling on the candidates they should rally behind in North Carolina and Alaska. In short, it seems a safe bet to assume that the GOP picks up two of these four incumbent-held seats.
And that makes five, not six. With a 50-50 Senate, Biden turns into a serious presidential contender for 2016. That's a much better Christmas present than "five golden rings."