October 27, 2010


With so much attention on the Congressional blowout most everyone is expecting, the Democratic party firewall is no longer Congress, it's the Senate. In my latest series of Helping Out posts, I started with Senators because it is entirely possible that 10 seats is still an achievable target for Republicans in the Senate. Why 10?

That's the number of seats needed to take a Senate majority from the Democrats. It's slim, but still a majority. In strictly pragmatic terms, that should be the goal of conservatives - operational control of both houses. It would be better to get 40 wins in Congress and 10 in the Senate than 70 and 8 respectively.

But there is the message aspect. 60 or 70 seats in Congress would certainly be a loud repudiation of the liberal agenda. Then again, I think it plays into the Obama agenda for 2012. If he has the Senate as a firewall, he can try again to paint the GOP as the party of radicalism, the party of 'no' and as the uncooperative group. If he has a foil, as so many have said, in Congress, he has ammunition for blaming any failures. If the next two years show progress on jobs and the economy, he has an argument that he can say he worked in a bipartisan way with Republicans (after they came around of course).

Either way, his 2012 message has a path. That doesn't mean Republicans shouldn't forge forward. Their message has a path too. From the party of 'no' to the President of 'no'.  If things stay bad it's because he wouldn't co-operate. If they get better it's because he had to listen. If he co-operates and things stay bad it's because he didn't co-operate enough.

All of that holds true if Republicans take the House AND Senate. If they only take the House, the President has his firewall. The Senate can stall the Congress as has been its historical role. The President doesn't get his hands dirty and will once again try to position himself as being above petty partisanship. It's a worn out message that likely won't hold much. But if he can recreate his youth turnout, those who don't typically pay much attention, and won’t be turning out in droves during the mid-terms, then he might be able to use it to squeal by.

On the other hand, with 10 more Senate seats, and control of both houses, it’s easy to paint the Democrats in the Senate as the party of ‘no’ (if they filibuster constantly) and/or the President too, to some undetermined extent.  The will of the people being foiled by an out of touch elite?  That message is carrying this election cycle and it’s possible it can be maintained throughout the remainder of the President’s term.  The real story will become whether Obama can do what Clinton did, or he is too much of an ideologue to do that.  We probably already know the answer, but it will be interesting to watch it unfold.

10. The most important reason for winning 10 seats in the Senate is to try to put in place an agenda that promotes growth and jobs.  That will be the ultimate test of the next Congress.  The GOP can reverse much of the damage being done and get America back on the right path.  Winning 10 Senate seats is a tall order.  8 or 9 seem likely.  But the polling isn’t the election.  Some races are close and possibly heading in the right direction.  This is the final piece of the puzzle for 2010.

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