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Senate: Deflating Democrats' Dream of 60 Seats

For any Senate strategist, 60 seats is the proverbial Holy Grail.

Control 60 seats in the Senate and your party can break filibusters -- meaning that the majority party can push through a legislative agenda as long as it can keep members in line.

For a few months this fall, it appeared as though Senate Democrats had a real chance at controlling 60 seats after the 2008 election. Not only were Republican incumbents retiring at a rapid rate (in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado), but other, less obvious seats were emerging as targets. Sen. Trent Lott's (R-Miss.) resignation, Democrats' takeover of the Kentucky gubernatorial mansion and Sen. Ted Stevens's (R-Alaska) continued ethics problems put three seats in potential jeopardy and opened up the real possibility of 60.

But, as quickly as the talk rose, it faded, thanks to a series of events that makes 60 seats in 2008 a pipe dream for Democrats.

The decline and fall of the 60-seat scenario began in mid-October when wealthy attorney Mikal Watts (D) abruptly walked away from a challenge to Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R), citing family concerns. When he dropped out, Watts had already sunk $5.6 million of his own money into the race and had promised to donate significantly more. Beating Cornyn was no easy task, even with Watts in the race, but it's hard to imagine a candidate without vast personal funds being able to compete at anything close to a level financial playing field with Cornyn in a state that's now dominated by Republicans.

Days later, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (Neb.) decided not to seek the seat that will be left vacant by the retirement of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R). Kerrey was widely seen as the lone Democrat who could win in the ruby red state of Nebraska, but ultimately he decided his life outside of Congress -- he is the president of the New School in New York City -- was more enjoyable than the prospect of a return to public life. When Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey (D) subsequently took a pass, Democrats' hope of a pick-up all but disappeared.

The 2007 election results temporarily raised hopes for Democrats, as the takeover of the Kentucky governor's mansion energized party leaders in the state to run a serious candidate against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). Democrats quickly centered their candidate search on state Auditor Crit Luallen, who won reelection last month with 59 percent of the vote. After several weeks of considering, Luallen announced she would not run earlier this month.

Iraq war veteran Andrew Horne (D) has stepped forward, and some within the liberal blogosphere are rallying behind his candidacy. Still, Horne lost a Democratic primary in the 3rd District in 2006, and it's hard to see him beating a politician as savvy and well-funded as McConnell. Other candidates -- like wealthy businessmen Bruce Lunsford and Greg Fischer -- are still considering the race and may wind up as better choices against McConnell given their respective ability to self fund a race.

The final blow to the 60-seat dream, however, came last week when former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore (D) decided against a bid for Lott's seat. Moore had been heavily courted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), but their cajoling proved insufficient.

In a press release late last week, Moore said: "I have seriously considered the U.S. Senate vacancy as my friends urged me to do, but I have always known that what I am doing now is good enough for me."

With Moore taking a pass, Democrats will likely turn to one of two former governors -- Ronnie Musgrove or Ray Mabus -- though neither has the political and fundraising heft that Moore would have brought to the race.

While it's clear that developments over the past six weeks should effectively end talk of a 60-seat Democratic majority in 2008, it's also important to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Democrats are still very well-positioned to make gains in the Senate next November. Open seats in Virginia and New Mexico lean their way, as does the New Hampshire seat where polling shows former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) with a comfortable lead over Sen. John Sununu (R). Races in Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Maine all present real pick-up opportunities for Democrats. Of their own seats, only Louisiana seems imperiled.

Given that math, a worst-case scenario for Senate Democrats at the moment is a gain of a single seat, with the best-case scenario somewhere in the six-seat range.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 17, 2007; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

With all due respect to Mr. Cillizza, I believe he is wrong regarding John Cornyn's Senate seat as out of play.

Mikal Watts dropped out of the race because he was running a VERY distant second to Rick Noriega for the Democratic nomination. Furthermore, although he had the ability to "self-finance" a run, there were a great deal of ethical "issues" surrounding Mr. Watts.

Cornyn's seat will still be in play because he has VERY LOW approval ratings AMONGST TEXANS. In a recent poll, those who didn't even know the name "Cornyn" was in double digits. Furthermore, he's a walking, talking-points-hack for the Bush Administration.

Surprisingly, that is playing more and more negatively in Texas. We have a saying here in Texas about not counting chickens before they're hatched. John "Box Turtle" Cornyn should be VERY nervous, indeed.

Posted by: dmg | December 18, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

These latest detailed race-by-race Senate Rankings confirm that Democrats are very well positioned in 2008, but that things are definitely not as good as they were a few months ago: http://www.campaigndiaries.com/senaterankings

Posted by: campaigndiaries | December 18, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats don't need to get to 60, or get to 58 or whatever and then recruit Snowe and Specter to the majority. They need to win enough that RINOs like Snowe and Specter (and Voinovich and Smith, etc.) feel absolutely safe flipping the bird (metaphorically speaking) at the minority leadership and voting with the Dems on cloture motions. If the Dems get to 55 or 56 seats, that's within reach.

If I had to do a line for '08 Senate, it would look like this: 1. VA, 2. NH, 3. NM, 4. AK, 5. CO, 6. LA, 7. MN, 8. KY, 9. ME, 10. OR. I'd guess the actual turnover will be somewhere between numbers 4 and 8. That's between a 55-45 Senate and a 57-43 Senate. And I don't get too far ahead of myself, but as jon.morgan.1999 points out, '10 offers the Dems some nice potential pickups, possibly enough to reach the magical 60.

Posted by: novamatt | December 18, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

The sure-fire way for Democrats NOT to get 60 seats is to nominate Hillary Clinton. Does anyone seriously believe she'll be an asset to any down-ticket candidate? I can see stories of Democratic candidates doing to Hillary what GOP candidates are currently doing to W: Asking her NOT to campaign with them.

Posted by: JohnY63 | December 18, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, Democrats are unlikely to reach 60 seats in the Senate (and Lieberman can't be counted, anyway).

However, what Democrats may reach is a "critical mass" with which, particularly under a Democratic president, Republican hard-liners have difficulty reaching 40 solid votes. After all, it is much more difficult for a Snowe, Specter, Grassley, etc. to stand in the way of popular issues -- particularly if there is no one in the White House to dictate a "party line". In other words, individual Republican members under these circumstances become much more concerned about the job they are able to do for their individual states and tend to adopt a pragmatic rather than ideological approach to internal Senate politics.

McConnell's challenge, if he is around, will be to round up 40 unshakable votes, a much tougher task than Reid's of rounding up 60 votes, particularly when the bridge, university appropriation, or city sewer system each member desperately needs is dependent on their cooperativeness with the majority.

Posted by: Stonecreek | December 18, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It's worth noting that Ronnie Musgrove didn't actually win his election at the ballot box. He actually trailed the Republican slightly, but since neither candidate got 50%, the Democratic legislature made him Governor. Then Haley Barbour beat him. So as far as I know, Musgrove has never really won a statewide election. (You can argue that a win is a win, but the legislature wouldn't get to choose the Senate winner like they did the Governor in 1999.)

Posted by: jon.morgan.1999 | December 18, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Here's the thing. Looking at the individual races with the two Federal tickets being equal (ie not being a drag on Federal races locally) there are a lot of micro-issues that make prospects better for the Dems.

VA- everyone seems to agree that Warner has this one in the bag. D+1

NH- John Sununu is a skilled pol, and while I think that counting him out is premature (in the right environment he can beat Shaheen) this state has trended much bluer than anyone could have forseen even a decade ago. D+2

MN- unlike in NH, this is a very blue state, and Norm Coleman isn't a particularly skilled pol. A reasonably popular Repub governor nearly lost in 2006, and the I-35W bridge collapse will end up costing Repubs what benefit of the doubt they had been getting. Despite Beltway talk about Franken, he is a MN guy, and he is being well received. D+3

CO- The Repubs haven't fielded a competitive candidate. D+4

Now we come to a lot of campaigns where depending on the situation, there are pickup opportunities.

ME- Personally I'll believe it when I see it. Sue Collins is a very good fit for this state.

AK- If Ted Stevens doesn't walk away or get beat in a primary, this one may end up shocking the Beltway establishment.

NE- Nebraska is not as solidly Republican as people inside the Beltway seem to think. Johanns doesn't have a ton of pull inside of the State GOP, he's a party switcher. A well run campaign and a neutral/net positive Dem candidate for the White House could surprise a lot of people on Election night.

OR- Smith is a solid Senator for this state. If events in Iraq turn worse, he could be in trouble nonetheless.

NM- I personally think Udall will win this walking away, and if Richardson decides to enter this race its solid Dem.

MS- Ronny Musgrove won a statewide race in MS. I think those who discount him should he choose to do so, do so at their own peril. The Dem starts with a floor of 35% as evidenced by the 35% Fleming drew against Lott... a well run populist campaign could surprise people.

KY- If the candidate (whoever it might be) could turn this election into a referendum on Mitch McConnell, he could be in trouble.. at any rate in 2010, the other seat is likely to go blue, because Bunning barely squeaked by in 04, and this state seems to be trending Dem.

And as one of the previous posters noted, some switching in a 58-42 Senate is certainly conceivable... a serious push to recruit Snowe might pay off... Specter is unlikely to switch

Posted by: leuchtman | December 18, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

There is no way Arlen Specter or Olympia Snowe will become Democrats. Ditto for Coleman, Collins and Smith.

Having a Democratic president has no effect on the ability of the minority to filibuster in the Senate or the majority's need for 60 votes to push their agenda through. The president can't break a filibuster and force the Senate to vote on anything; look at the bitter confrontation between Bush and Senate Democrats over his judicial nominees even when we were down to a caucus of 45. Having 60 seats makes an important difference whether you have the White House or not. What DOES change is that no Democrat would veto bills like SCHIP expansion or stem cell research, so we'd no longer need 67 votes to override vetoes.

2010 Senate:
I think Ohio's Voinovich should be vulnerable if he doesn't retire. There will be strong potential candidates like Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and three-term Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. Gov. Strickland will be leading the Dem ticket that year.

PA- Specter could retire. He could also hold onto his seat until he's a skeleton like Strom Thurmond. He's old and in his 5th term now, but he's like a cockroach in that he seems able to survive anything, political challenges or health problems including cancer.

KY- Jim Bunning is old and crazy, ended up winning reelection 51-49 in 2004.

MO- Kit Bond is set to retire after 24 years.

IA- Chuck Grassley after 30 years, and no prospect of chairing Finance again anytime soon?

KS- Kathleen Sebelius vs. Sam Brownback?

FL- Mel Martinez maybe

NH- Judd Gregg?

AZ- McCain retires?

SD- Thune is up.

LA- David Vitter is up.

WY- John Barrasso will be up.

AL- Dick Shelby might retire, for the dreamers out there who think we could win his seat.

Some Dems could leave us too, like Reid and maybe Inouye. I suspect Dodd may retire.

Posted by: jon.morgan.1999 | December 18, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The talk of expanding our majority to 60 Senate seats in 2008 has seemed irrationally wishful to me all along. Lots of factors combine to make this cycle another good one for Democrats, but gaining NINE Senate seats in one election?? That's a huge order. I'm guessing neither party has done that since 1964 or 58. (The GOP picked up 7 seats in 1994, before Ben Campbell and Richard Shelby switched parties) I think Amy Walter of the Cook Report has been predicting a 3-4 seat gain for Dems in the Senate. That or 6-7 is much more realistic. If we're to get up to 60 Senate seats--which no party has done in 30 years--we'd have to finish that trip in 2010, not 2008. I think you have to factor in the possibility of Lieberman caucusing with the Republicans after the next election, but still, to have even 55 seats let alone 57 would be much better than the 51 we have now.

Posted by: jon.morgan.1999 | December 18, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

'Democrats exploited our soldiers and our country to try and worm their way in'

It's warped, sick minds like yours that are driving this country into the gutter.

Posted by: drindl | December 18, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Each day reveals something {Not New} from the "Hillary Haters". This tactic is again, nothing unexpected. Since last Monday I have visited 3 Dr.s {Another Appt. Wednesday} and talked with about a dozen or so folks in the waiting rooms, as well as security guards while waiting for my return ride home. Politics is very much on the minds of these folks and the cost is a main topic. Everyone I talked with is supporting Hillary. This may not amount to a lot of folks overall, but the health care issue is most identified with Hillary by a wide margin.

Posted by: lylepink | December 18, 2007 1:48 AM | Report abuse

The Democrat "victory" of 2006 was a complete aberration. Remember, that was during the darkest period of the War Against Terror in Iraq. Democrats exploited our soldiers and our country to try and worm their way in.

Now the tables have turned. Pelosi and other Euro-Centrists have dropped talk of retreat because even they have to concede that Bush has won the day for America.

Posted by: jabailo | December 18, 2007 1:09 AM | Report abuse

I finally got to watch Charlie Rose with Bill Clinton. You can get the 53 min. conversation at the Charlie Rose website.

Bill Clinton is nothing if not charming and persuasive. He is able to synthesize issues in a capsule. I think he helped HRC with anyone who has not made up his/her mind.

I had read some commentary here that was critical of his "performance" and I now discount that.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 18, 2007 12:15 AM | Report abuse

MoreAndBetterPolls's link, above, produced this little gem:

"Data on the South Carolina Democratic Primary will be released Tuesday morning."


... Excellent ...

.

Posted by: bsimon | December 17, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Chris, I hope you are reading the comments here. Very diappointed with your appearance on Hardball tonight! Is it not apparent to you that Chris Mathews is totally biased against the Clintons? How dare he challenge the integrity of the people who support Mrs. Clinton? Do you honestly think Mrs. Clinton can somehow direct bob kerrey to spell out the full name of Barack Obama? Can you not say "wait a minute, chris, you cannot denigrate people's character and integrity like this?" Is TV appearance really that imporant to you?

Posted by: nidaye3322 | December 17, 2007 11:06 PM | Report abuse

judge crater writes
"Yes, you are impatient. Individual polls mean little"

Yes, individual polls mean little. But it takes new polls for trends to be recognized (or disproven). Thus I want new, post-O polls. Judge, based on your apparent patience, I'm beginning to think you're not a real junkie...

Posted by: bsimon | December 17, 2007 11:01 PM | Report abuse

It was always highly unrealistic for the Dems to actually get to 60. More so now that their getting such horrid poll numbers in Congress, etc. But any pseudo-pundit that say Congressional approval has anything to do with the White House is insanely naive...

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl | December 17, 2007 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I definitely agree that Hillary Clinton would be a drag on down-ticket Democrats in swing states/districts.

I, for one, would not be in the least upset if the Dems do not reach 60 votes assuming a Democrat wins the White House. That would give them too much power, IMHO.

Posted by: jimd52 | December 17, 2007 8:25 PM | Report abuse

What with media scrutiny and the need to run negative, because research shows it works anybody running for office nowadays has to be not just crazy but mean crazy, in a word, a Republican.

Posted by: jhbyer | December 17, 2007 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Chris.....Don't count the Dems out so soon. They aren't even suppose to be in the majority. (You remember The Math of Karl Rove). It's a long way to go and lots can happen. And in case you haven't noticed the republicans are having lots of trouble fundraising and there is still an incredible amount of anti-Bush and anti-republican anger out here beyond the beltway.

And never mind the economy is going down the tubes as well. Just another thing to "Thank" the republican for next year.

Posted by: cfeher | December 17, 2007 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I have read several articles where people who would have concidered a run for Senate or congress in the democratic party are choosing not to because of Hillary.
If the party nominates her, they feel they simply won't stand a chance in their state or district.
Unfortunately, the party establishment who is trying to recruit these people and are being told this and why, are the ones backing up their establishment candidate.
So, because of this, if Hillary did get the nomination and somehow got elected, we will not have the votes, plus a divisive and upset congress who will not play ball with her.
I refuse to support HRC if she is the nominee. And if my party is stupid enough to do so, I will be saying 'told you so' within a year.
We need to say no to these establishment candidates our party nominates every 4 years.

Posted by: vwcat | December 17, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Let's say Obama sweeps the early states and puts this thing out of reach on Feb 5. If so, I think he could be a huge asset to democratic senate (and house) challengers. He'll have a lot of time to campaign for them and if he continues to wear well with voters, he might just have coat tails we aren't imagining at this point. I agree that 60 is probably out of reach, but I also feel in my gut that this will be a sea change election. We might have to recalibrate our notions.

Posted by: rich5 | December 17, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

crisis-interesting, seems someone has been paying attention so a few posters*cough markinaustin* honestly i could see biden in a vp slot, but delaware is already a lock in the dem column. in order to win you have to knock at least two red states out in order to win.(Va and OH, and just to make sure to win a few purple states like NMex and iowa)

but on the other hand if huckboom wins the nod then expect McCain to become veep.

Posted by: jaymills1124 | December 17, 2007 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Check out this blog for more analysis.

http://think.mtv.com/BrianTRich/User/Blog/BlogView.aspx

Posted by: thecrisis | December 17, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Shows any independant thinkers where the gop mind is at. The laws that this country were founded on don't matter. The country and issues don't matter. Defence doesn't matter, as we've seen with the gop turning their back on Bush and Rudy's terror ties. All that matters is fake republcain imaginary rules. Moral rules/laws. What a crock. Then they run someone like rudy divorced three times. What a crock. The gop is a party of racist fascist hypocrites. They are done. If not, you deserve what electing racist fascist hypocrites gets you. We deserve the destruction of this country if we keep electing these sabotuers for profit. Lock them all up I say. Free the political prisoners in their now (war on drugs). Put the traitor sabotuers in there. Real criminals

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | December 17, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

CC, how can predicting the outcome of the 2008 election be a near impossibility but shrugging off a Senate majority is already yesterday's news?

The GOP is only 2-3 more scandals away from lasting minority status, and maybe only 1-2 scandals away if the Larry Craig incident keeps making headlines through the next 10 months.

On the other hand, you simply have to take into consideration what effect the nominees will have on the Congressional races. If Romney is the GOP nominee, what effect will that have on typically-uncontested Democratic races in Massachusetts? Or conversely, if Obama wins the nomination, how will that effect Congressional races in normally-conservative rural Illinois districts?

Pile on the impact of legislative victories and losses through the next year and there are so many variables that trying to call the race from a year away becomes futile.

Nice try, CC!

Posted by: thecrisis | December 17, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: Check Rasmussen Report daily at noon or 1:00 PM eastern. He has the latest on-going daily and is supposed to have the latest on Iowa, NH, and NC before the weekend. There is another one out of Iowa, but it is made up of 88 % men, so I disregarded it.

Posted by: lylepink | December 17, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

It's a defense technique. They use to to soften up OLD PEOPLE. Just like with Mitt. Russert ripped ROmney a new one (bringing out the fli-flops). What do you hear today? How great Romney was. To these people truth doesn't matter. Only lawyer abilities. Any answer will do. Like rudy and mitt laughing through the tough questions. Defence tactic. Only works with people who do not know what time it is.

I don't thik it's funny at all. I call it dodging questions. Lawyers.

Just like lobbyist are nothing but bribers. It is all in how you look at it. The gop is done. Any independant thinker see's this. Yeah, they have their old cow folk who hate the democrats and the clintons over a bj. So immoral, that bill clinton. Consentual realtions is so much better than murduring millions to steal another countries resources, while over stepping international law. Spying on americans and throwing out the entire constitution, other than free speech for repbulcains only and guns for children.) is so much worse than a bj

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | December 17, 2007 6:19 PM | Report abuse

drindl, It was a little weird. They all seem to wither under Russert's cross examination. Except for John McCain that is; he fared well due to his truthful nature and willingness to answer the tough questions without waffling. Romney looked like a waffler, imo, but I thought Bill Richardson was the worst so far on MTP.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | December 17, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

'mean-spirited cackle'

did anyone notice that rudy was giggling hysterically thoroughout the russert interview? what was up with that? every time russert asked him a tough queston, he would start gigglig like a pack of little girls. really weird.

Posted by: drindl | December 17, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

"There are lots of legitimate reasons to dislike Hillary. Lack of intelligence and legal ability aren't among them."

Colin, Perhaps she would be content with being Obama's legal advisor then. Count me firmly in the anybody-but-Clinton camp.

IMO, she showed her true colors in the Des Moines register debate, when the mean-spirited cackle came out of nowhere, as she laughed at Obama being asked about using former Clinton advisors. His retort was perfect, a quick rebuke for the nastiness and sarcasm of Hillary. If we're going to have a lawyer for POTUS, Obama seems to me a much better legal mind and a better idea-guy than Hillary ever will be.

Not that I'll be voting for either of them.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | December 17, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

" I'm impatient, I know."

Yes, you are impatient. Individual polls mean little.

Posted by: judgeccrater | December 17, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Opps. Don't want Blarg to report me to the link police

Glenn Greenwald

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | December 17, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Whcih is more likely. Harry Reid is sellin gout his nation, due to his republcain religon. Or, he is selling out his party because he is a moderate sell-out, a la lieberman di fi, rockafeller, kerry.

"Monday December 17, 2007 09:31 EST
Harry Reid -- compare and contrast
(updated below - Update II - Update III)

Russ Feingold, today, on the effects of Harry Reid's pro-administration dirty work:

This morning, the Senate starts debating legislation to expand the government's surveillance powers.

Unfortunately, the bill we are going to be considering is the one reported out by the Senate Intelligence Committee in October, S. 2248. It did not have to be this way. Thirteen Senators joined me last week in asking the Majority Leader to instead bring up a bill that includes the changes approved by the Judiciary Committee last month. . . .

By choosing the Intelligence Committee bill over the Judiciary product, Senator Reid has made things much tougher for those of us who think the courts -- not Congress -- should decide whether the companies deserve immunity. He's also made it an uphill struggle of those of us who want more court oversight of the broad new surveillance powers included in the bill. . . .

We have a big fight on our hands, and unfortunately, the deck is now stacked against us.

All of this stems from Reid's refusal to honor the "hold" placed on that bill by Chris Dodd, who has been in the Senate for 24 years. In fairness, though, there are some Senators whose "holds" are treated with great reverence by Reid (h/t Atrios):
Metro board members from Virginia and the District are skeptical of Maryland's move, while officials in Annapolis insist that the state's commitment is ironclad. But those jitters are overshadowed by graver doubts about the federal half of the funding formula, which at the moment is being held up by a single senator -- Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) -- despite its apparent overwhelming support in Congress.
And (h/t Digby):
Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday that would restrict the interrogation methods the CIA can use against terrorism suspects. . . .

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., placed a hold on the intelligence bill, preventing the Senate from voting on it while the challenge goes forward.

Until Harry Reid met Chris Dodd's efforts to stop telecom amnesty and Bush's warrantless surveillance powers, this is how Senators understood the effects of "holds":
Any senator who lodges one can do it anonymously, effectively becoming the secret assassin of a bill or nomination. . . .

[Sen. Trent] Lott noted that technically, a hold is only a request from a senator to the party leader to be notified when a particular bill comes up. In real terms, "that's the same as shooting it in the head with a bullet," Lott said.

Thus, one read this from earlier this year about Harry Reid's Senate:
When Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., asked for a vote on their proposal to post Senate campaign finance reports on the Internet the same day they are submitted, an anonymous senator put a secret hold on it. No vote can be held as long as the secret hold remains in place.
Here's what Charles Grassley said back in 2002 when he, along with Sen. Ron Wyden, introduced a bill to mandate that any holds be out in the open:
Essentially, a hold is a notice by a Senator to his or her party leader of an intention to object to bringing a bill or nomination to the floor for consideration.

This effectively prevents the Senate leadership from attempting to bring the matter before the Senate.

And here's what Wyden said about the super-hero-like power of the "hold":
It is one of the most powerful weapons that any Senator can wield in this body. And it is even more potent when it is invisible. The procedure is popularly known as the "hold."
Isn't it just amazing? Reid is using every power he has, including some which run directly contrary to how the Senate has traditionally operated (and how it still operates when it comes to GOP prerogatives), to ensure that one of the most glaring scandals involving Bush lawbreaking -- warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens -- is never investigated and there is never any accountability for it. And the methods he is using to accomplish that are as corrupt as the results themselves. "

Posted by: JKrishnamurti | December 17, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Proud -- I don't even like Hillary, but arguing that she wasn't/isn't a talented legal mind is just silly.

1. If you go to Yale law, you can write your own ticket. She didn't just go, she was a star there.

2. Failing one bar, when you take two the same year, is rather meaningless. You have to prioritize learning one state's law over the other. Any lawyer that's taken two bars in 4 days can tell you it's an unpleasant experience, whether you pass both or note.

3. When she went to arkansas, she turned down a prestigious job working with Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund. Also, taking a teaching job -- where she was only female law professor -- isn't settling. It's actually HARD to do, especially right out of law school.

There are lots of legitimate reasons to dislike Hillary. Lack of intelligence and legal ability aren't among them.

Posted by: _Colin | December 17, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Even the die-hard Clinton supporters are now tiring of her...

"What I've seen these past few months isn't the Hillary Clinton I remember from her campaign visits here in 1991, when I first met her, or her several visits since and prior to this year," Splaine wrote last week in a lengthy posting on the blog Blue Hampshire.

"Where has the 'conversation' gone that she said she wanted to start with her announcement last January? It seems as if she is talking 'to' or 'at' us, even 'down' to us"

"I just think something's wrong with her campaign right now", said the veteran NH dem.

There's been something wrong with since it's inception... trying to make the experience argument out of being married to a governor and president, and 6 years in the Senate with nary a substantial achievment to her credit.

She keeps telling voters: "I have said for months in this campaign, I am vetted, I am tested."

Who vetted her? Her mother?

Well, just for fun, let's fact-check her experience claim...

Bill says: In law school Hillary worked on legal services for the poor.


Bill says: Hillary spent a year after graduation working on a children's rights project for poor kids.


The facts are: Hillary interned with Bob Truehaft, the head of the California Communist Party. She met Bob when he represented the Panthers and traveled all the way to San Francisco to take an internship with him.


Bill says: Hillary could have written her own job ticket, but she turned down all the lucrative job offers.


The facts are: She flunked the DC bar exam and only passed the Arkansas bar. She had no job offers in Arkansas and only got hired by the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville because Bill was already teaching there. She only joined the prestigious Rose Law Firm after Bill became Attorney General and made partner only after he was elected governor.

Bill says: Hillary didn't succeed at getting health care for all Americans in 1994 but she kept working at it and helped to create the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that provides five million children with health insurance.


The facts are: Hillary had nothing to do with creating CHIP. It was included in the budget deal between Clinton and Republican Majority Leader Senator Trent Lott.


Bill says: Hillary was an excellent Senator who kept fighting for children's and women's issues.


The facts are: Other than totally meaningless legislation like changing the names on courthouses and post offices, she has passed only four substantive pieces of legislation.

One set up a national park in Puerto Rico.

A second provided respite care for family members helping their relatives through Alzheimer's or other conditions.

And two were routine bills to aid 9-11 victims and responders which were sponsored by the entire NY delegation.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | December 17, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Real funny how there is scant - if any - mention of the fact that a little known and woefully under-funded African American State Rep. Erik Fleming (D) was able to beat out two weatlhy White opponents in the Mississippi Democratic primary for US Senate 2006. He ended with 35% against Sen. Lott (R) in the general, but that's not something to simply sneeze at and brush off in a state like Mississippi.

What's up with that? Why isn't anyone checking on Fleming to see if he might take another stab at it?

Schumer and the Dem fundraising machine pretty much dissed Fleming as a long shot -he asked for support, but even after the primary, they laughed at him. With a total grassroots campaign he was able to snuff the two wealthier candidates in a state not known for any kindness to its Black population. There are whispers that Fleming is planning it again. Word is also that despite the fact that Lott secured his seat with a solid 64% majority, the incumbent GOP Senator was petty enough to throw a boat-load of cash at a Democratic opponent to Fleming's re-election bid for his State House seat. Fleming, disgraced and "put in his place" by the Ole' Miss ole' boys, is now serving out his last term. What was that all about?

Question: what makes Fleming less of a serious candidate than Moore, Musgrove and Mabus? Have you tried talking to him lately?

Posted by: wrathofmugen | December 17, 2007 4:54 PM | Report abuse

MoreAndBetterPolls suggests that you view the late breaking poll at

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/south_carolina/election_2008_south_carolina_republican_primary

that indicates an uptrend again for former Gov.Romney and a downtrend for former Gov. Huckabee.

Posted by: MoreAndBetterPolls | December 17, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Blarg- thanks, but still too old. While it overlaps the period in question, I'm looking for new data, collected entirely after the big O visited. I'm impatient, I know.

Posted by: bsimon | December 17, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/states/south.carolina.html
The CNN poll was conducted December 9-12, and has Clinton 42, Obama 34.

Posted by: Blarg | December 17, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

judge, thanks but that's too old. I'm looking for new polls on SC. Latest shown on pollster is the 12/7-12/9 data. I'm curious to see how the so-called Oprah bump played out - if at all.

Posted by: bsimon | December 17, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Bsimon:

Both Obama and Huckabee still lead and their data continues to display a positive slope
http://www.pollster.com/08-IA-Dem-Pres-Primary.php
http://www.pollster.com/08-IA-Rep-Pres-Primary.php

Posted by: judgeccrater | December 17, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

A filibuster-proof majority is unnecessary if there is a Dem president. Heck, losing the Senate is basically not a big deal if a Dem Prez can continue to ram his agenda down America's throat the way Bush has. Bring it on.

Posted by: shead7 | December 17, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

If a Dem wins the WH the discussion becomes academic because at that point the Dem president could paint the GOP minority as obstructionist, just like Bush did before the GOP lost control of Congress.

Posted by: Spectator2 | December 17, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse


Whatever one might predict for 2008, a really daring prognosticator would look all the way out to 2010 and evaluate those possible contested seats. Anyone getting so old that they will probably retire? Any red senators from a state that is turning distinctly blue or vice versa? Of course, three years is a lifetime in politics, but I was hoping for a real expert/pundit like Chris to taking the predictions to the max.

Posted by: mskeels64 | December 17, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Off Topic-

Who's in charge of watching for new polls? Any word out of SC recently? I'm curious to see if there are any new trends in that data.

Posted by: bsimon | December 17, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

bsimon -- that's certainly a legitimate concern. I tend to think that the Democratic party is, by necessity, probably a big enough tent that whatever the composition of Congress the party will have to govern from the center out. Of course, I also think Obama is going to win the WH, so perhaps that colors my view.

Posted by: _Colin | December 17, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

the smuck being liberman of course

Posted by: jaymills1124 | December 17, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

blarg-well i was thinking about that, i guess if i was senate majority leader(other than taking my head out of my ass first) i would offer a trade liberman for say spector or offer spector a chair with his senority intact. or just boot the smuck out of the caucus. of course i wouldnt do that until there's at least 51 plus seats in my favor.

Posted by: jaymills1124 | December 17, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

_Colin writes
"If Ds go from 45 seats to 55+ seats in two election cycles, that's pretty amazing. Don't forget, after W was reelected, the GOP was talking about a permanent Republican Majority in Congress for a generation."

I could see the Dems repeating the GOPs mistakes. A lot will depend on whom they nominate for President. Perhaps I'm being too cynical, but I think if HRC were president with majorities in both houses of Congress, the Dems could repeat all the mistakes of the Bush admin - politicization of the whole Fed gov't - and by 2016 we'd be looking at a full pendulum swing back to the GOP. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

Posted by: bsimon | December 17, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

the mere fact that the Dems are even talking about picking up seats in places like Mississippi and Alaska is pretty remarkable.

Posted by: Spectator2 | December 17, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Jay: You mention the possibility of a moderate Republican defecting to be a D or at least an I. But what about Lieberman? He just endorsed a Republican for president. Who knows how much longer he'll caucus with the Democrats? I don't expect him to formally become a Republican, but he's hardly a reliable Democratic vote.

But it's all academic. The 60-vote threshold only matters if everyone votes on the party line, and that doesn't happen often. The moderate Republicans sometimes vote with the Democrats, and vice-versa. And some issues cause even more ideological Senators to cross party lines; look at Grassley on the SCHIP bill. Obviously the Democrats will be more successful with a larger majority, but it's not like 60 votes is so different from 61 or 59.

Posted by: Blarg | December 17, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

colin-good point. dems at this point shouldnt statrt the victory party at this point. if anything start beliving your 10 points behind and work like hell!

Posted by: jaymills1124 | December 17, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

on edit-i forgot Va in easy wins by the dems but, still no reason to rest on your laurels.

so in closing you have 49 dems plus 2 independents caucusing(ok 1 and joe liberman) and 49 repubicans.

wins by dems-Va,NH,Mn,NMex,Co and possibly Or,and a suprise win in TX.

49+7-1=55-2-43 or 57-43 senate majority.

Posted by: jaymills1124 | December 17, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

If Ds go from 45 seats to 55+ seats in two election cycles, that's pretty amazing. Don't forget, after W was reelected, the GOP was talking about a permanent Republican Majority in Congress for a generation. Which, I grant you, also cautions against Democrats feeling too good this far out from the election. I'd definitely rather be a D than an R, however, at this point in time.

Posted by: _Colin | December 17, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

sure, now it looks next to impossible that the dem's wont have a 60 seat majority in 2008(compare it to my pipe dream of running the table and winning a shocking 67 and having the ability to over ride any veto) consider the wider picture right now.

look at the potental flips now. you have Colorado,New Hampshire,New Mexico,Minnestota. thats 4 so far that brings it up to 53-2-45. ok thats not so bad but then look at Maine,and oregon, ok add that up to 55-2-43. now if the dems had a senate majority leader with balls(yes im looking at you harry reid) you can threaten the nuclear option at the repubs and give them a taste of their own medicine.

also, consider the fact that there could be another defection ala jim jeffords? arlen"magic bullet" spector and olympia snowe might want to jump sides just to be in a majority, if someone offered a committee chair.

also, you gotta factor in who's at the head of the dem ticket and what events might happen in 2008(another terrorist attack? a recession?) and even if the repubicans do win a seat(La) its still going to be in the hole 3 seats for its best case senario.

worst case? the dems repeat 2006 and win 6-7 seats and retain the senate and possibly losing 1.

Posted by: jaymills1124 | December 17, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

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