Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Changing Political Landscape

2010 is shaping up to be quite an interesting election year after all. While many experts would agree that Democrats would expect to lose seats in the House and Senate and perhaps some statehouses, the numbers weren't expected to be a deluge.

That's why yesterday's surprise announcements that Sen. Bryan Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT/Friend of Mozilo) would not seek reelection are so surprising. They were considered safe seats this year, and now their retirements open the door for challengers. Democrats had expected to lose some seats, but the prospects of holding together a filibuster proof majority in the US Senate now appear dim.

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's Democratic attorney general, said Wednesday he would run for Dodd's seat. The ripple effect means that elections down the line will be affected by the incumbent retirements and provide opportunities for fresh blood to come into the political process.

Further, another Democrat, Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado, will not seek a second term.

Then there's word that Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN) may attempt to unseat New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Even David Paterson, the embattled Democratic governor of New York, isn't safe from attacks by the White House on down and that's even with potential Republican challenger Rudy Giuliani saying he wont run.

All this opens the possibility that Republicans can eliminate the filibuster proof majority in the Senate and cut into the Democrats overwhelming numbers in the House as well as improve their numbers at the state and local level.

Yet, all is not well for Republicans. Michael Steele, the RNC chairman, didn't exactly have kind words for the GOP yesterday, and pretty much called Republicans on the carpet for their poor performance over the past 20 years, a rebuke of both Bush Administrations and a squandering of their Congressional fortunes. Scandals, corruption, and a willful disregard for fiscal responsibility all play a role in the GOP fortunes, and that many Republicans are enthralled with creationism and anti-science agendas isn't going to attract new voters and support among those who have found that the Democrats tax and spend agenda is unsustainable.

Democrat overreach in trying to ram through the widely unpopular health care overhaul isn't going to help the Democrats, but knowing that the Democrats are bound to lose seats will only encourage Democrat leaders in Congress to push harder to get a deal done.

The same political calculus is pushing the gay marriage agenda in New Jersey; Gov. Corzine's term ends in just about two weeks, and his successor, Chris Christie has said that he would veto a gay marriage bill. Supporters don't know if they have the numbers to pass the bills in the Democrat controlled legislature, so if they can't get it done now, they'll have to wait at least four years before trying again. The State Senate has scheduled a vote for today.

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