Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Tuesday’s Dose of Sunshine

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While today’s vote in Arizona may be of interest to California, what with Sen. John McCain forced to spend more than $21 million to keep disgruntled conservatives and Tea Partiers at bay, it’s the primary in Florida that’s just as compelling — and maybe more important in the big-picture scheme of things.

First, it’s a great plot line — something straight out of a Carl Hiaasen novel on life in the bizarro Sunshine State.

You have the 39-year-old Republican conservative darling, not even elected and already (sadly, imo) being talked up as 2012 presidential timber — like Barack Obama, at this point in his career, an over-hyped commodity. He’ll be challenged this fall by the sitting governor who’s ditched the GOP and is now running as an independent. As for the two Democrats, there’s the gazillionaire who asked Mike Tyson to serve as best man at his wedding. He’s running against a four-term congressman endorsed by Bill Clinton but expected to be quietly undermined by his state party in hopes that Democratic loyalists will shift over to the newly independent governor, who in turn would return the favor by caucusing with Democrats as a freshman senator.

Got all of that?

Here’s another reason why Florida matters more to California than Arizona: 2010 Senate math.

McCain’s expected victory today translates to an easy victory in November; the seat stays in GOP hands. But the Senate seat in Florida, open now thanks to the retirement of Republican Sen. George LeMieux, offers Democrats the rare chance in this election cycle to turn a Republican seat Democratic. Should Rubio stumble or should Crist catch on fire, Democratic poobahs might ask their friendly “independent” groups to pour money into the Sunshine State. And that could mean fewer dollars funneled to the Golden State, to help incumbent Sen. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Conversely, should Rubio’s chances improve down the home stretch, Democrats might look to spend elsewhere, including California.

As for the Senate math in this election year, it’s all about counting to 10 — how Republicans get from their current 41 seats to 51 and outright majority control.

The calculation goes something like this:

1) Retain 6 seats vacated by retiring Republicans senators in Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio;

2) Win at least 5 of the 6 seats vacated by Democratic senators in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia (the latter being the toughest to pick up)

3) Pick up Arlen Specter’s seat in Pennsylvania, now that he’s been unceremoniously dumped by Keystone voters. Hold serve in the 5 GOP open seats, pick up 5 Democratic open seats, plus Pennsylvania, and the GOP is now at plus-six.

4) Target the 6 most vulnerable of the 12 Democratic incumbents seeking another term — that be California, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, Washington State and Wisconsin. Add these 6 to the earlier 6: net again of 12 seats, Republicans at 53.

It doesn’t take a calculator to figure that Republicans could easily get to 51 — and beyond — under these circumstances.

And it’s also clear that the GOP could take over the Senate without taking out Boxer.

California Republicans consider yourselves warned: there’s a history of the Golden State missing out on GOP Senate landslides:

— 1994. Republicans pick up 8 seats, taking over the Senate with a 52-seat majority. But in California, incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein outlasts Michael Huffington.

— 1980. Republicans pick up 12 seats, again taking over the Senate (this time, with a 53-seat majority). But in California, incumbent Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston gets 56.5% of the vote against Prop 13 co-author Paul Gann.

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Written by Bill Whalen

August 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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