Gaining momentum off a string of victories culminating in the shocking win of Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, Republicans suddenly have a clear path to winning back the Senate in November after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana.
They also may gain legislative momentum, too, with the swearing-in Thursday of Brown, who suddenly demanded the date be pushed up Wednesday after conservatives clamored for his key 41st vote to give them leverage over healthcare reform and other Democratic initiatives.
But Brown’s victory may be just the beginning of an electoral juggernaut that could conceivably help the GOP take control of the Senate in November, according to Politico.
- Former Sen. Dan Coats will run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, instantly transforming Indiana into a competitive race.
- Rep. Mark Kirk won the Republican Senate primary in Illinois, giving the GOP the best chance of winning President Obama's former seat with a strong candidate with statewide popularity.
- In Delaware, Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, decided not to run for his father’s former seat in Delaware. That gave GOP Rep. Mike Castle, who has run and won 11 times statewide, frontrunner status.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is currently down by double digits to a relatively unknown field in Nevada.
- Elsewhere around the country, once-strong Democrats are either retiring or on the ropes, according to numerous polls. Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas is being clobbered by at least 20 point, and Sen. Byron Dorgan's decision to retire made North Dakota an almost hopeless case for Democrats. The GOP has pickup opportunities in three other states: Colorado, California, and Pennsylvania, where Sen. Arlen Specter trailed former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey by 14 points in one recent poll.
To be sure, taking back the Senate will not be easy, and any number of things can go wrong between now and Election Day. Politico points out that it would require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.
But the political web site points out that in both 2006 and 2008, almost all the competitive Senate races broke in the same direction. Democrats won control in 2006 by seizing six out of seven targeted seats, and by putting one more race in play Republicans would have a similar path to taking a majority.
One wild card is New York, where the GOP has yet to recruit a strong competitive candidate to run against appointed New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is vulnerable, according to polls. Former Republican Gov. George Pataki consistently leads Gillibrand in public polling, but he hasn’t declared.
But if the GOP can achieve a 50-50 split in the Senate, Republican leaders could try to woo Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman all the way across the aisle, Politico points out. Lieberman recently said "it's possible" that he could run as a Republican in 2012 — "a good, old-fashioned, New England moderate Republican" — which should have been an alarm bell for Democrats concerned about keeping his vote.
Politico also points out that the GOP has a number of seats to defend, too — in Florida, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, Missouri and North Carolina — and Democrats hold a significant cash advantage. The DSCC had $12.5 million in the bank at the end of December, with $1.2 million in debt, compared with $8.3 million on hand for the NRSC. The DNC has an even wider cash advantage over its Republican counterpart.
But beginning tomorrow, the GOP’s newest star, Scott Brown, will be making the party’s newfound clout apparent.
One vote where Brown would make a difference is the Senate's consideration of union lawyer Craig Becker to become a member of the National Labor Relations Board, the Associated Press reported.
Republicans — led by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who endorsed Brown's candidacy — have held up Becker's confirmation for months. They say Becker might use the post to make labor laws more union-friendly without congressional approval.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have actively opposed Becker, suggesting his views are "out of the mainstream."
But he was renominated earlier this year, and a Senate committee was expected to send his nomination to the full Senate on Thursday. Democrats would need 60 votes to bypass a GOP hold and push the nomination through, according to the AP.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said Tuesday that Democrats would move a vote on Becker "as expeditiously as possible on the floor."
Brown upset Democrat Martha Coakley to win a Senate seat held by Kennedy for more than a half-century.
As pre-election polls showed him with a chance of winning, Brown complained when Galvin — a Democrat — said it would take him several weeks to certify the results because of a state law requiring a 10-day waiting period to receive absentee ballots. There also is an additional five-day waiting period for cities and towns to send him their official results.
On Jan. 20, Galvin sought to defuse the situation by sending the Senate clerk a letter saying it appeared Brown had won the election. Similar documents had previously allowed newly elected members of the House to be sworn in.
Yet officials in the Senate, similarly controlled by Democrats, said they needed an official certification from the governor before scheduling a ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as president of the Senate.
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