As we look ahead optimistically towards the 2010 midterm elections there are many specific races to focus on. While there is a realistic scenario that we can take back the House in an unusual wave year reminiscent of 1994, the Senate is quite different. The Senate often boils down to individual races and is not as prone to being as one sided as the House races are during tidal wave elections. There are 70 Dems sitting on districts that are rated as R+1 or more by the Charlie Cook PVI and 35 of them are rated as R+5 or more. With some viable recruitment in those districts by the NRCC (which they are already successfully implementing) there is an outside shot of winning back at least 40 seats, assuming 2010 to be a "wave" election. This would be enough to grant us the majority. At this point, it is definitely possible, albeit a long shot. To take back the Senate, however, is all but impossible.
Due to the complicated dynamics of individual Senate races which tend to hinge more on incumbency, seniority, and name identification, they are not as easily swept up in "wave" elections. This is especially true for Republicans because Democrats don't hand out free senate seats like Republicans do. They fight to the death for every seat. Also, the fact that there are only a limited amount of seats up for election during every cycle, severely curtails the amount of potential turnovers.
Lets take 2010 for example. In the House, all 435 seats are up for grabs and due to the super majority of the Dems, they are forced to defend 256 seats (59%). In the Senate, there are 36 seats in cycle (two are special election), however despite the Dems 60% majority they only have to defend 18 seats (50%). This automatically caps the amount of gains to 18 seats and this is assuming that we defend everyone of our seats. Now out of those 18 incumbent Dem seats, there are a bunch of them that due to the political dynamics of the state and or the Senator and potential (or lack there of) challengers there is either no chance in hell of defeating them. This holds true even in the most favorable wave elections for us.
Lets look at some examples. There is no way we can take out Sen. Daniel Inouye in Hawaii. Ditto for Mikulski in Maryland, Feingold in Wisconsin, Schumer in New York, Leahy in Vermont, and Bayh in Indiana. This leaves us with only 12 seats to work with and we need a net gain of 11 to win back the Senate. This would mean defending everyone of our seats (which is somewhat reasonable in a wave election) and turning over 11 out of 12 of the remaining incumbent Democrats seats. Out of those remaining seats there is Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty Murry of Washington. Both are solidly entrenched in solid Democrat states with a lack of credible GOP challengers on the horizon. It is very unlikely that these seats would get swept up in a wave by a no name challenger. This leaves us with 10.
Out of the remaining 10 there are only 5 seats that we stand a good chance of turning over. Specter in Pa, Reid in Nevada, Burris in Illinois, Dodd in Ct, and Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. Even these five potential victories are based on several assumptions that are not guaranteed to be in place come next November. There are other seats that depend upon a credible challenger. If Castle runs in Delaware he would stand a good chance of winning. If the NRSC can convince ND Gov. John Hoevan to run against Sen. Byron Dorgan, he might be able to unseat him especially in a wave election in a red state. I could envision Boxer becoming vulnerable based on some of the potential candidates and current polling data. New York will keep Gillibrand unless Pataki or Guiliani enter the race. In Colorodo, we definitely have a chance to defeat the weak Sen. Bennet if the Republicans can get their act together and field some credible challengers.
It is pretty clear that although we stand a good chance to hold our vulnerabilities in NH, Missouri, and Ohio, while picking up 4-7 seats, we will not take back the senate. This leads me to my next point. Since we are limited to how many Dems we can defeat due to the demographics of some of the states, we must look towards the remaining 18 incumbent R seats. Some of them are open seats and some are running for reelection, but they all deserve scrutiny. We need to focus on net gains of conservatives, not only Republicans. Even if we net more seats, many of them will be RINOs. The only way we will win in Illinois, Delaware, and CT is with Kirk, Castle, and Simmons respectively. They are actually all liberals. I am not advocating wasting our time in those states. If that is what it takes to win due to the political reality as well as the star power of the RINOs I am fine with that. However, it is the red states we need to focus on.
I am not advocating that we knock off every incumbent R that is not conservative without worrying about the political consequences of a general election in certain states. However, there are certain solid red states that we have full control over and need to maximise our "electoral potential". This means in my opinion that every solid red state should be like Oklahoma where we have two great Senators (Coburn and Inhofe). If you look around the map, you will be hard pressed to find another solid red state in which we maximise our electoral potential like we do in Ok. I'm not getting involved in the debate about challenging incumbent RINOs in blue states or RINO's running for open seats in blue states that have been coronated by the NRSC. I'm talking about solid red states in which there are fat old bull big government statists sitting on our seats. We need to seriously look at those guys up for election and assess if there can be a credible grassroots support for a challenger.
Looking at the 2010 map with the 18 incumbent R's, there are several obvious examples that are already in place. The two open seats in Fl and Texas with Marco Rubio in Florida and Michael Williams in Texas. These are two states with strong republican leanings (Texas more so than Florida) and there is no incumbent R. So it is a no brainer to me that grassroots conservatives should be supporting them. And I want to point out that this would actually be a net gain of two seats (conservatives+2). I think all conservative activists are aware of Marco Rubio and Erick has written about Williams so I will not elaborate.
The race I am specificly researching now is the Utah Senate primary race of Sen. Bob Bennett. He is the prototypical old bull, big government, lets make a deal with the marxists type of Republican. Specifically, he is the biggest supporter of liberal Ron Wyden's <a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:S334:">HealthyAmericans Act</a>. He was rated by Human Events as one of the <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=31018">topten RINO's</a>. His ACU rating for 2008 was a dismal 64. And let me say one thing about ratings. I've noticed with many squshy Republicans that they start of moderately conservative and then they make a conservative effort to start sliding south. This is what happened with Voivovich, Specter, and Chaffee and it appears to be happening with Bennett. His first year in the Senate in 1994, when the conservative revelution was still fresh he got a perfect 100% score. In recent years he has dramaticly declined in a way that is indicative of the fact that he is now a Washington insider.
The thing that really irks me is that we are not talking about Illinois here. I would have no problem with him if he were from a blue state. But Utah??? For crying out loud, if we can't have normal conservatives from Utah then where can we? There is no reason for this.
So I did a little research and found that there are several candidates running against Bennett in a primary. I was partuculary impressed with Cherilyn Eager. I checked out her website http://www.eagarforsenate.com/ and was blown away at her rock solid conservative crudentials. I really don't know much about her aside for internet research but I would welcome any fellow redstaters to help research more about her and see if this is someone who we can promote. She was a marketing company VP, a talk radio host, and was involved in state political committees. She appears to be a real viable candidate and a heavy weight. Again, I have no real knowledge of her and would like for anyone to comment if they have any more information or inside knowledge about the Utah senate race. There are several other state that can fall under this catagory, but I wanted to start in Utah.