Published on TheHill.com on January 19, 2010
On the rude arch that spanned the flood
In the April breeze their flag unfurled
Here the embattled farmer stood
And fired the shot heard round the world
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Scott Brown’s win of the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy means that any Republican can win at any time in any place. Such are the fortunes to which the Democratic Party has fallen under the ministrations of President Barack Obama.
Will this latest defeat, coming on top of the loss of New Jersey and Virginia, reduce the conceit of this man? Will it cause him to second-guess the course he has staked out for his party and our nation? Not bloody likely.
But what it will do is bring good Republican candidates out of the woodwork to challenge incumbent Democrats who hold seats once thought to be unassailable.
Throughout the nation, the same pattern repeats itself: Democratic incumbents running in districts they had assumed to be safe but which are safe no more. But, again and again, there is no viable Republican who has, as yet, stepped up to challenge them. You can’t beat somebody with nobody. And the Republican Party has a candidate shortage.
As of this writing, there are no strong candidates to challenge Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Evan Bayh (Ind.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.). Yet each of these senators is vulnerable. If Ted Kennedy’s seat can go Republican, so can theirs.
Right now, the Republicans will likely hold all their open Senate seats. Of the six seats held by retiring Republicans, only Missouri, Ohio and New Hampshire are really in play, and the GOP candidate in each of the three holds a strong lead.
Then there are five Democratic seats likely to fall to the Republicans.
* The Delaware seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden will probably go to Mike Castle (R), the at-large congressman who has won 11 statewide races since 1980. Biden’s son, Beau Biden, has made noises about running, but he will probably read the handwriting on the wall and stay home.
* When Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) dropped out, he basically conceded his North Dakota seat to Gov. John Hoeven, a highly popular Republican.
* Michael Bennet (D), the senator appointed to fill the Colorado seat held by Ken Salazar, faces a strong challenge from Jane Norton, the popular former lieutenant governor. She’ll probably win.
* Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) has defied her state one too many times when she voted for healthcare. She’ll pay the price in November.
* As will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who lags behind both of his possible opponents. With his son running for governor, Reid may not even run for fear of dragging his boy down with him. The family needs one of them to be in office. It’s how they make their money.
That brings the GOP to 45 seats.
Next are two races where the Republican has a good chance:
* In Pennsylvania, part-time Republican, part-time Democrat and full-time opportunist Sen. Arlen Specter is running for reelection in a primary against Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak. Don’t count on Specter staying in the race. And count on his losing the primary if he does. The Republican, Pat Toomey, should win the race in November easily against Specter, with more difficulty against Sestak.
* Obama’s Senate seat is up in Illinois and Mark Kirk, the Republican congressman who has taken the lead in pushing for vigorous sanctions against Iran, is tied with his potential Democratic rivals. We should pick up both seats. That’d be 47.
In California, Carly Fiorina is only a few points behind Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). It’s hard to imagine California going Republican, but easier than to have visualized Massachusetts doing so. That would make 48.
But then the Republican Party runs out of candidates. Anyone want a Senate seat? Gillibrand (or Harold Ford, if he wins the primary) will not be hard to defeat. Murray won with only 55 percent of the vote last time. Wyden got only 54 percent. Bayh is from solidly Republican Indiana, and Feingold is too liberal for anyplace this side of Cuba.
Hopefully, the Brown race will kindle the fires of ambition in incipient candidates in these key states. They need to win at least three of the five to take control.