Whatever the outcome of the debate on the debt ceiling, one thing's f'sure, the NEXT Senate will be a vastly different body. There are no guarantees..anything can happen, from a war in the Middle east, to an asteroid landing somewheres inside the Beltway.
But all things being equal, the GOP should take control of the Senate after 2012. They could gain from 5-10 seats, and possibly more. But far more importantly, the next GOP caucus will be much more conservative. And articulate. And courageous.
Let's aggregate them into SIX groups:
1) 2010 gave us some superb new voices. Rubio, Lee, Ayotte, Johnson, Lee, Paul, Portman, Toomey. DeMint and Sessions aren't feeling as lonely. And much more help is one the way.
2) We could see strong new conservative voices from Arizona (Flake), Florida (Hasner), Indiana ( Mourdock), Nebraska, N. Dakota, Ohio (Josh Mandel), Texas ( Ted Cruz), Utah ( Jason Chaffetz), Wisconsin.
3) There are a few races that fall into the "too close to call" category: Missouri, Montana, Virginia.
4) There's a few long shots we can't really assume..though if the economy continues to tank, we could have a third consecutive wave election..Those would be: Hawaii ( if Lingle wins) Michigan ( we finally have a candidate), W. Va ( Manchin may not be able to keep splitting hairs), Pennsylvania ( if Santorum runs),
Now here's where it gets really, REALLY interesting. If you're counting the above lists., Groups 1 & 2, that's a total of 19 senators..17 of whom would have been elected in the last 2 years....
There are also several more, reliably conservative votes, most of whom have served LESS than ONE term in the Senate, and thus aren't part of the Old Guard..the " go along to get along, let's make a deal" mentality.
5) Heller, Barasso, Blunt, Boozeman, Coburn, Hoeven, Johanns, Moran,Risch, Thune.
BTW, that's 10 more.
I'm purposely omitting a few "hard to characterize:"
6) Brown ( he could lose, though I don't think so, but might feel the need to avoid appearing "too" conservative, Coats ( he's an old bull, but may see things the right way), Corker ( has a quirky independent streak) Kirk ( another Brown?) Vitter ( he didn't get much "love' from the leadership in his last race. He could be secretly p.o.'d)
The total of groups 1, 2, & 5 is..(Twenty-nine....count 'em..29) That number could easily be 2-3 more.
That means that if the coming GOP caucus has 57 members ..... 29 is the majority.
29 Senators who have no real loyalty to McConnell, who may even feel they are more comfortable with DeMint, either on ideological grounds, or becasue DeMint helped them get elected, or both.
If ever there was a viable scenario for a change of leadership, a palace coup....it exists now. Be sure that McConnell is well aware of it..and that it will strongly affect how he acts on legislative matters this term. To an extent, he's between a rock and a hard place, and he may find it near impossible to remain standing. If he remains leader, he won't be able to control the new caucus..it will find its own way, and its own voice. Mitch will have to be very, very careful these next 16 months.
So if w continue to work hard, and support candidatites with our time, and our treasure, we have a good chance of controlling the Senate, with a strong conservative majority voice, and perhaps, who knows, a new majority leader.