If Democrats thought this past Tuesday was bad, wait for 2012, The Hill warns. Thanks to the big pickup for Democrats in 2006 for the Senate, they have to defend a lot more seats in the next cycle than they did in 2010. Republicans may have an easy opportunity to grab control of the upper chamber, but a few things have to fall in place first:
For the first time in two cycles, Democrats will have more seats up for grabs than the Republicans, and the party could see its shrunken majority erased altogether.
Several of the senators up for reelection came in on the 2006 Democratic wave, when the party picked up six GOP seats and won control of the chamber.
Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) defeated GOP incumbents that year but will have to win reelection in 2012.
And two senators who won special elections Tuesday, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), will face voters again in two years.
In January, Obama assured Democrats that the midterms wouldn’t be anything like 1994 because, as he said, “You’ve got me!” In 2012, that will be more the case. Obama will have to go on the stump, and that along with the usual stakes in presidential elections will boost voter turnout for Democrats in the next cycle. That may tend to mitigate some of the potential losses, especially in places like New York and Rhode Island.
However, those aren’t the seats that Democrats fear losing. Obama had to limit his campaigning in this cycle mainly to deep-blue House districts in order to keep from damaging the prospects of Democratic incumbents. He won’t be any help to Tester in Montana nor to Brown in Ohio, which Obama will almost certainly lose now in the 2012 election after winning it in 2008. He will also have to campaign hard in Pennsylvania because a Democratic presidential candidate simply can’t afford to lose that state, and his heavy campaigning there resulted in the state flipping entire red in this election.
If the economy improves markedly, Obama will have an easier time protecting himself and his Senate delegation, of course. However, the consensus among economists is that the current stagnation will extend all the way through 2011, and at the moment no one sees any reason why 2012 will stage breakout growth. That means joblessness will remain high, and voter anger will do the same. Under those conditions, Democrats may lose a relatively small number of House seats (since they lost the most vulnerable seats already) but could lose a slew of Senate seats and give the GOP a large majority in the upper chamber. If that happens, then it will likely be accompanied by a change of Presidents as well.