The United States Senate is sometimes referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” With its members elected to six-year terms--sometimes in cycle with the presidential election and sometimes out of it--the Founding Fathers intended it to be a governor, not just on the power of the presidency but on the passions of the people.
Lately, however, the Senate has seemed more vulnerable to prevailing political passions than either the House or the presidency. In 2006 and 2008, for example, the Republicans saw their wings clipped in a flurry of anti-Bush sentiment that caused them to lose every race that was on the bubble because of environmental factors as well as the personal political issues on which races of this type often turn.
The next election, to borrow a term from the financial analysts so much in disrepute these days, may produce an overdue market correction. In just one cycle the GOP may leap from being a barely relevant minority to being a carefully constituted majority.
Almost every objective analysis of the seats up in 2010 finds that the Republicans are highly likely to hold on to what they currently have. This means no Republican incumbents seeking re-election would be defeated and they would retain control of seven open GOP seats in New Hampshire, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio, Florida, and Utah.
The Democrats are not so fortunate. Most forecasters already concede they will lose seats in North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, and Delaware--putting the GOP at 45 and the Democrats at 53, plus independents Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont who vote with the Democrats to organize the chamber. [See who gives the most to Sanders.]
Of the remaining seats, as pollster Scott Rasmussen and others suggest, there are at least seven and perhaps as many as ten where the Democrats will have to fight hard to retain control. Those seats clearly in the toss up category include the open Democratic seats in Illinois and Pennsylvania, a formerly Republican seat in Colorado and seats in Washington state, Wisconsin, and California, where the GOP has had major success recruiting serious challengers to incumbents the polls indicate are quite vulnerable.
“If the election were held today,” Rasmussen says, “the GOP would be favored to pick up a few more than the four seats already moving in their direction. However, it is impossible to know how these races will look in November. While individual candidate performance will obviously play a role, the overall political tide may be an even bigger factor.”