Consider this map (via Politico) showing what the DSCC calls a "Limited Resource Plan" for the 2012 elections:
...which is, of course, being waved around by the DSCC for the purpose of convincing wary Democratic donors that donating money in 2012 to the group that lost seven* Senate seats and struck out on four prime pickups** in 2010 is a good idea. This did not sit well with the Ben Nelson campaign in Nebraska, which (nervously) pointed out that taking this map seriously suggests that DOOM was coming not only to Nebraska, but Virginia and New Mexico as well.
In point of fact, the DSCC had two maps, but the first one is easily dismissed as merely being a visual representation of the promise that, if fully funded, the Democratic party has every intention of running a candidate in every Senate race in 2012. This is a revelation roughly on par with the one about water being wet; besides, they needed it mostly to contrast with the aforementioned Limited Resource Plan. Which represents a very interesting set of assumptions, if you look at each of the eleven (not ten) races listed in it. Going down the list (race rankings from here):
- Connecticut. Open seat: Joe Lieberman (D***) is retiring. Likely Democratic. The Democrats are expected to win this, but it's competitive.
- Delaware. Incumbent Democrat: Tom Carper (D). Solid Democratic. There was widespread speculation in 2010 that AG Beau Biden (son of VP Joe Biden) would be seeking a Senate seat in 2012; while Carper is showing no signs of retiring, neither is he notably active. But Biden doing a primary upset would make this seat competitive; 2012 is not 2010, and the Biden brand has taken a hit lately.
- Florida. Incumbent Democrat: Bill Nelson (D). Lean Democratic. Competitive race, and the Republicans are going to be going after this one hammer and tongs.
- Maryland. Incumbent Democrat: Ben Cardin (D). Solid Democratic. Cardin's a freshman Senator... and an undistinguished one, at that. This is one race where I disagree with Cook; Cardin has vulnerabilities, and lacks the force of personality that would protect him from the consequences of them.
- Massachusetts. Incumbent Republican: Scott Brown (R). Toss-up. This is one of the two races where the Democrats have a realistic shot at flipping a seat. More to the point; there is not a scenario in existence where the Democrats are not going to try to get what they consider Ted Kennedy's seat back.
- Missouri. Incumbent Democrat: Claire McCaskill (D). Toss-up. She's probably doomed, but the Democrats are running out of Midwest and she's less doomed than Ben Nelson is.
- Montana. Incumbent Democrat: Jon Tester (D). Toss-up. Tester is a freshman who has made enough dumb votes to put him on the cusp of DOOM.
- Nevada. Open seat, kind of: Dean Heller (R) was appointed to it after Ensign resigned more or less in disgrace. Toss-up. The other only real Democratic potential pickup this cycle.
- New Jersey. Incumbent Democrat: Robert Menendez (D). Solid Democratic. This is the other race where I contest Cook; Menendez is a freshman, and rumors of corruption surround him. It's also going to be his first election since they went out and arrested Hudson County's Democratic party leadership in 2009.
- Ohio. Incumbent Democrat: Sherrod Brown (D). Lean Democratic. Ohio is a battleground state; Brown is a freshman with a voting record that pleases progressives than it does Ohioans, if the 2010 elections are any kind of benchmark.
- West Virginia. Incumbent Democrat: Joe Manchin (D). Toss-up. I actually contest Cook's rating on this one the other way: while technically a freshman, Manchin is probably more secure in retaining the seat than he's given credit for. Still, a competitive race.
I went through all of those to show that the Limited Resources Map, contra Ben Nelson, can be legitimately seen as being the Democratic firewall. It is merely Nelson's bad luck that he's on the other side of it; and it's not surprising that his supposed counter-examples New Mexico and Virginia (both open seats in states that trended Red in the last election cycle) are likewise on the other side (I'd add the open seat in Wisconsin, too). Or that, when push comes to shove, that the Democrats are conceding not just North Dakota, but eight out of ten GOP-held seats.
Or, put another way: the only way that the Democrats 'messed up' here was in actually admitting that Nebraska has been written off, a year and a half in.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
**Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, & Ohio.
***I like Joe Lieberman all right and everything, but his 'Independent' status is a polite fiction.