Any discussion of Republican electoral success in 2012 has to include a major discussion of retaking the U.S. Senate. Without the Senate, it doesn’t matter if we get “Anybody But Obama” into the White House.
We currently have 47 seats in the Senate, and Democrats have 53.
Here is the breakdown of the Senate seats which will be contested in 2012 (via Wikipedia):
Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (Independent)
Daniel Akaka of Hawaii
Ben Nelson of Nebraska
Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico
Kent Conrad of North Dakota
Jim Webb of Virginia
Herb Kohl of Wisconsin
Democrats/Independents running for reelection:
Dianne Feinstein of California
Tom Carper of Delaware
Bill Nelson of Florida
Ben Cardin of Maryland
Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Claire McCaskill of Missouri
Jon Tester of Montana
Bob Menendez of New Jersey
Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
Sherrod Brown of Ohio
Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania
Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Independent)
Maria Cantwell of Washington
Joe Manchin of West Virginia
Note the seats I’ve highlighted. These are opportunities for the GOP. I’ll return to them in a moment. We might also include Jon Tester on the vulnerable list, despite the fact that Montana has only had two Republican senators in 100 years.
Now look at the Republican seats:
Jon Kyl of Arizona
Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
Republicans running for reelection:
Richard Lugar of Indiana
Olympia Snowe of Maine
Scott Brown of Massachusetts
Roger Wicker of Mississippi
Dean Heller of Nevada
Bob Corker of Tennessee
Orrin Hatch of Utah
John Barrasso of Wyoming
What do we see in this breakdown? We are likely to lose one seat we currently hold, and we have one other at-risk seat, whereas the Democrats have eight at-risk seats- some because they are in purple states, others because the incumbent isn’t very popular. We need a net gain of four to have a majority.
In other words, the way to retake the Senate is three-fold:
1) Put substantial money into those nine races. That means getting Republicans in the other 41 states to contribute money to those races. That also means convincing Republicans in Democrat-stronghold states to put money into races which can be won, rather than throwing money away in their own state’s senate races. For example, I live in New York; I know Kirsten Gillibrand will still be my Senator in 2013. So, I’ll put my contribution into, say, Claire McCaskill’s opponent.
To illustrate the power of this type of fundraising: There are 55 million registered Republicans in the United States. If each of them contributed $5, that’d be more than $30 million into each of these key campaigns. Obviously we won’t get 55 million people to donate; this is just an illustration.
2) We need to ensure that voters in those nine states select good candidates. If 2010 and the current Presidential primaries have shown us, this isn’t an easy proposition. We all remember some of the more-prominent GOP senate candidates- Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Joe Miller- going down in flames. We need to avoid a repeat of the process which selected them.
Both of these points would be greatly assisted by having some national organization which could a) focus on promoting well-qualified candidates and b) facilitating donations from individual donors across the country to these few races.
3) As I stated in a previous post, we need to select a presidential candidate who makes the rest of the party look good enough that moderates and independents (and some reluctant Dems if we’re lucky) vote Republican in the Senate elections as well as the Presidential election. This is key; a candidate who ruins our image and our appeal to the voters will guarantee Democrats hold both the White House and the Senate.
Folks, we know what needs to be done. Now it’s a question of doing it.