Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Conrad Calls It Quits

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No 2012 run for North Dakota's Kent Conrad

The Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the U.S. Senate in 2013 and beyond just took a hit with Kent Conrad’s announcement that he won’t seek another term next year.

Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, hails from a flyover state that ran deeply red last fall (the state’s lone, at-large congressman, nine-term Democrat Earl Pomeroy, was on the wrong end of a landslide). So maybe he saw the writing on the wall.

Keep in mind: Conrad’s former colleague, Democrat Byron Dorgan, called it quits (surprising the Beltway punditocracy) before the 2010 election.

Looking at the big board, the numbers don’t bode well for Senate Democrats in 2012. President Obama’s party has to defend 21 seats — many in right-leaning states, or states hit hard by the recession.

By contrast, the GOP has to defend only 10 incumbent seats in 2012, only three of which are seen as vulnerable (Scott Brown in Massachusetts, John Ensign in Nevada, and Olympia Snowe in Maine). 

Democratic incumbents who figure early as political endangered species include Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, Florida’s Bill Nelson (especially if former Gov. Jeb Bush challenged him), Montana’s Jon Tester and Virginia’s Jim Webb.

With a current Senate balance of 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and 2 independents who caucus with the Dems), the GOP needs a net gain of 4 in 2012 for a working  majority of 51 seats.

In 2010, Republicans picked up six seats. Six Democratic incumbents retired in that cycle. Republicans picked up three of those seats (North Dakota, Illinois and Indiana), while the Democrats held on to the other three (Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia). 

If you want to take a closer look at the 2012 Senate cycle, here’s the Cook Political Report’s early outlook.

And if handicapping’s your game, here’s Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

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Written by Bill Whalen

January 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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