Stumbled on this over at Ace of Spades. Good points.
There sure doesn’t seem to be any rest for weary Senate Republican strategists, who are trying to plot a comeback in 2010 for their party after two consecutive miserable election cycles.
They can take some consolation in the fact that the GOP will not have the kind of steeply slanted playing field it had to deal with this year. In the flip side of the party’s successes in its better times of 2002, the Republicans ended up defending 23 seats to the Democrats’ 12. That would have made it hard for them to hold their ground, even if the overall political atmosphere had not been so toxic.
The slate of regularly scheduled 2010 races gives the Republicans another defensive chore, though it was not nearly as big: 19 Republican-held seats are scheduled to be up that year to 15 Democratic-held seats. Special elections will narrow the margin further, to 19-17, because of picks President-elect Barack Obama has made for his White House team from among his former Democratic Senate colleagues.
Part of the reason for the Democrats’ dominance is that they hold a lot of Senate seats in Republican territory– Montana, the Dakotas, even blood-red Kansas. I’m not sure exactly what it takes to convince the electorate that no matter how “moderate” or “conservative” a Democratic Senator may talk, he will vote the party line in all the crucial votes, but we have to break through on this message.
The usual trick is to vote with the party on the real vote, usually a vote to close or continue debate (that is, to end or sustain a filibuster), and then vote the constituents’ interests on the merits. But by then it’s a foregone conclusion — like scoring a touchdown in the last 30 seconds of a game when you’re down by 35. Meaningless and cosmetic.
The GOP needs to educate the public on the power of procedural votes which are really the determinative votes on most contested matters, and then drive that message home.