Senate Democrats are dropping: With the mid-term elections mere months away, holding on to their 60 seat super-majority has become more difficult for Senate Democrats. News breaking today that Chris Dodd (CT) and Byron Dorgan (ND) will not run for re-election means that Democrats will have to defend 4 open Senate seats this fall (CT, ND, DE (formally Biden by way of Kaufman), IL (formally Obama, by way of Burris)) and that, combined with challenging races elsewhere in country, is going to really stretch the resources of the DSCC. However, there is hope. In looking at the four races, only ND seems to be in real jeopardy of switching parties, although that could change in a hurry. And they can take solace in the fact that Republicans are defending open seats in more states than they are (Ohio, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Kansas) so they, too, have many pulls on their resources. As candidates become clearer, we will be taking a look at those races but, for now, we can all look forward to a very competitive summer and fall.
Massachusetts senate race: Of course, there is the possibility that Democrats will lose their 60 seat super-majority well before November. The first general election poll in the special election in Massachusetts is out and it is not good news for the Democrat in the race, Martha Coakley. Rasmussen (a polling company that Democrats already don’t particularly like) is reporting that Coakley only leads her opponent, Scott Brown, by 9 points (and only 2 points when you only look at people who are certain they will vote) with independents trending heavily towards Brown. Of course, this poll only tells part of the story. Coakley still has way more money than Brown and is planning a heavy TV blitz this week. Her problem is that she hasn’t been able to energize anyone outside of her base because of her safe and conservative campaign and being on TV and in-front of voters more should help her build enthusiastic support and convince people to turnout on the 19th. Of course this is Massachusetts so, all she really has to do is get her base out to vote. If she can do that, she has a very good chance of winning. What national observers are going to see from a close race though is that people are growing increasingly frustrated with the party in power and, if the Republicans can make a race for Teddy’s seat close after taking two Governorships away from the Democrats a few months ago, it will give them a lot of confidence heading into November. On the other hand, this is a Rasmussen poll (not the most reliable) and she could still win by 20 points. But it is getting interesting.
Fallout from the Christmas day attempted attack: President Obama spent a significant portion of yesterday meeting with his National Security team in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. It appears the US had the intelligence it needed to recognize Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a potential threat, but still let him get on the plane that day. I’m really glad that the Administration now realizes there was a mistake and is no longer saying that the system worked (one of the stupidest comments I have ever heard a public official make). What is unfortunate is that this incident is giving rise to political posturing (Gingrich’s remark that the Obama administration “start[s] every day with a presumption that the rights of terrorists are more important than the lives of Americans” is absurd and irresponsible) and misguided ideas (announcing extra screening for people flying to/from America to one of 14 “watch” countries). It is in the best interest of all of us to ensure there is a real and open discussion about the new directions the war on terror is taking and how best to protect ourselves and our country. And I hope that people who are planning to run for office can restrain themselves from using their notoriety to undermine those they are running against by making deliberately misleading and incendiary statements.
Health-care takes another step forward: In a move that was widely expected, President Obama cleared the way for the House and Senate to bypass a formal conference in favor of informal negotiations as they try to meld their versions of the health-care overhaul bill. In doing this, they remove the opportunity for Republicans to delay the bill by holding up the process of choosing representatives for the conference. Instead key committee leaders will work to create the final bill. This ensures that a final bill will be put to a vote sooner rather than later and that is just what the President is hoping for.