Democratic politicians themselves, including Senate Majority Leader Reid, have talked up the possibility of lame duck action. If they lose lots of seats in November–even if they don’t lose either house of Congress–the lame duck will be their last chance to achieve many of their legislative goals. Those who’ve been defeated or who decide to retire will have little left to lose. Might as well be go to the gallows as historic liberal reformers.

The argument that Dems will never get 60 Senate votes in a lame duck session has always seemed a comforting fantasy. After November, moderate Republicans will be free of mid-term pressure to toe the conservative line in order to keep the right on their side. On immigration reform, for example, several GOP senators–John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Kyl come to mind–have self-righteously supported some form of “amnesty” before and might be expected to revert to type after their pre-election anti-illegal posturing. Graham’s actually been quite open about how his proposal to end “birthright citizenship” is a set-up for legalization.