In all the excitement of seeing an October surge for Romney, the serious ass-whooping delivered by Romney in the first debate, and the glee taken as Joe Biden made a complete and utter ass of himself in the VP debate, there’s one topic that seems to me is still running under the radar of discourse at a crucial time: Congressional races.
Especially the Senate.
Because let’s face it, if Romney wins the presidency, and assuming Republicans retain the House, there is still the matter of the Democrat-controlled US Senate. Republicans need the trifecta that Obama enjoyed for his first two years – control of the House, Senate and Presidency – in order to achieve anything significant.
The Senate has 100 total seats, and currently the mix is 51 Democrats and 47 Republicans, with 2 Independents. This year, 21 Democratic seats are up for re-election; 10 Republican; and both Independents. My home state of Iowa doesn’t have a dog in the Senate hunt this time around*, but Senate races elsewhere around the country are critical.
Here are a few of the more interesting ones in my estimation:
Virginia – A swing state with unemployment over 10 percent in some areas, a retiring incumbent, and a really close Senate race in 2006. Republican Governor Bob McDonnell once enjoyed approval ratings over 60 percent and was entertained as a potential Romney VP, but now he’s back down in the low 50’s at least in part because Democrats seized an opportunity to hammer on a specific legislative decision involving abortion.
Wisconsin – Republican Senator Herb Kohl won big in 2006, but he’s retiring which means his seat is up for grabs in a swing state with a controversial Republican governor in a nationally televised battle with organized labor.
Ohio – A large swing state with a Democrat incumbent where Obama currently leads in a better-than-regional economy, but where people have been turning out in droves to meet-and-greet with Romney in a mid-October surge. The experts say Romney can’t win the White House without winning Ohio.
Florida – Interesting/important primarily because it’s the largest swing state. Romney is leading in the Presidential race, but the incumbent Senator was a big-win Democrat in 2006.
Missouri – Republican challenger Todd Akin had a rough summer because he dared to answer a question about abortion with some erroneous information, but he is within six percentage points of the Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill, whose victory margin in 2006 was minimal.
Connecticut – Independent incumbent Joe Lieberman is retiring after 24 years in the Senate, and Republican Linda McMahon is saying she’ll bring the same independent thinking to the seat. While Obama leads Romney here by a wide margin, McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy are in a five-point contest.
Massachusetts – The home state of the Kennedy family dynasty has been solidly Democrat for decades, but the entrenched left got a big surprise in 2010 when the late Ted Kennedy’s vacated seat was narrowly won by Republican Scott Brown. While Brown has a relatively moderate Senate record with no big mis-steps, challenger Elizabeth Warren is well-supported by an angry Democratic machine.
Make no mistake, the Republicans need to do more in their Senate races than just get a slim majority – they need to win BIG so there’s no chance that an occasional rogue vote could undercut key legislation. Unless Republicans take control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency, there is no hope of repealing Obamacare or of achieving much else on the immediate agenda. And that, my friends, is simply setting Mr. Romney up for failure.
*Iowa has no Senate races this year, but we are seeing two interesting challenges in the House: Democrat lifer Leonard Boswell is up against experienced Republican challenger Tom Latham; and long-time Republican incumbent Steve King is having his ankles bitten repeatedly by bleeding-heart Democrat Christie Vilsack, former Iowa First Lady and wife of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, who held a rally this past week in Sioux City that was ONLY attended by Slick Willy Bill Clinton because it was held within shouting distance of a strip club.