White House spokesman Gibbs last week conceded that the Democrats have a very good chance of losing the House in the upcoming November elections. Although Nancy Pelosi disputes that, polling indicates it is likely.
Now, the Wall St. Journal has an article up and running, “GOP Sees Chance to Control of Senate” by Naftali Bendavid http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704875004575375122374132154.html claiming that the Republicans can also take over the Senate. Here’s the gist of this article:
Democrats for the first time are acknowledging that Republicans could retake the Senate this November if everything falls into place for the GOP, less than two years after Democrats held a daunting 60-seat majority. …The emergence of competitive Republican candidates in Wisconsin, Washington and California–Democratic-leaning states where polls now show tight races–bring the number of seats that Republicans could seize from the Democrats to 11.
Democrats now control the Senate 59-41–after the death of Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was replaced by Republican Sen. Scott Brown–including two independents who usually vote with them. That means Republicans need 10 seats to take a 51-49 advantage.
The scenario that the WSJ writer paints seems highly unlikely. It is correct that Democrats will likely lose in North Dakota, Delaware and Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln)and traditionally Republican Indiana. Four other races are tossups: those in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado and Nevada. Democrats will likely win at least two of those (probably Nevada and Colorado) and the GOP would need to sweep all four. Not likely. This road map to Republican control envisions Republicans then taking at least two of three seats in Democratic leaning states like California, Washington, and Wisconsin. I personally think the Democrats will win all three although by closer than expected margins.
To achieve a majority in the Senate, the GOP would also have to maintain all of its current seats. Missouri, Ohio, New Hampshire and Kentucky will likely remain Republican but the fly in the ointment is Florida. Crist likely will win there and he is running as an independent but would likely align with the Democrats.
I see the Republicans as picking up 6-7 Senate seats still leaving the Democrats with a majority, albeit a reduced one. Likely outcome from today’s 59*-41 breakdown:
53* Democrats (*and those who caucus with them)
That leaves little margin of error for Democrats to control legislation through the Senate and it likely means that Harry Reid should be replaced as Senate Majority Leader even if he wins his reelection campaign.
President Obama can help the Democratic situation in both the House and the Senate if he takes some simple, but meaningful steps. He needs no one else to begin the following changes to shake up his administration for the November elections, although Cabinet level changes would require Senate Approval:
- Replace ROBERT GIBBS as White House Press Secretary. He often puts his foot in his mouth, undercuts the party message, and just looks in general like a lout. Get someone who is brighter and more articulate. He’s a bumbler and he needs to go. There are lots of decent replacements available. My choice: lure Bill Moyers out of semi-retirement. He’s done it successfully before, he knows everybody and everything going back to LBJ, and he would bring a perspective to Obama that has been lacking. This change needs only Obama’s approval.
- Replace RAHM EMANUEL as White House Chief of Staff. This is a much more important position but Rahm has mucked up the party before in mid term elections (he led the debacle in 1994 and came close to being fired for it by then President Bill Clinton). He is hated and despised by progressives and liberals and replacing him would both soothe those relationships and fire up the party. A possible candidate: Tom Daschle. This post doesn’t require Senate approval and Daschle has all the insider knowledge and knack for politics that Rahm doesn’t. He knows Washington, D.C. inside out. This change needs only Obama’s approval.
- Replace KEN SALAZAR as Interior Secretary. Salazar is the blunderer who failed to clean up Interior, contrary to his boasts, and who granted all those environmental impact waivers to BP. He’s been a leading cheerleader for offshore drilling and is in bed with special interests. Obama should hire a true steward of the environment. Democrats have lost lots of drive and enthusiasm in environmental issues and a change needs to come here. Possible replacement: Jim Doyle, retiring two-time Governor of Wisconsin, a state that has superb environmental programs and a long history of environmental leadership (think John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson). Doyle has a good record on the environment and he has eight years of administrative experience; Salazar had none. This change would require Senate confirmation.
- Replace TIM GEITHNER as Treasury Secretary. It’s clear that Obama’s entire economic team has failed to provide the kind of advice and expertise the country needs. Replacing Geithner, one of the architects of the economic disaster, would remove an albatross from Obama’s neck and allow Democrats to say that yes, they know that we have not done enough on job creation and on Wall St. reform to do more. Possible replacement: bring Paul Volcker out of retirement. He’s enormously respected and still very active in the field. This change would require Senate confirmation.
These four changes in themselves would revitalize the base of the party that Obama really has lost touch with: liberals, activists and progressives, the very kind of people who walk the walk in precincts and who do all the hard work in campaigns. It would bring fresh ideas and fresh air into an administration that has been blundering about, especially on the economy and on environmental protection issues for almost two years.
In addition, Obama should immediately appoint ELIZABETH WARREN to the head of the new consumer protection agency that the financial services bill will set up. She is the Harvard Law School professor who fought so hard to have the consumer agency created; she has the grit, the intelligence and the perseverance to make it work. She’s also a Washington, D.C. outsider and that will help the party too.
It is now up to Obama. November elections are only a little more than 3 months away. To hold on to Democratic majorities and protect himself from being a Lame Duck president in his last two years, and also to prevent himself from being a one term President, President Obama needs to make some changes. These five changes would revitalize the Democratic Party and most likely undercut major losses in November. But the President has to show some fight, some spirit, and some leadership, qualities that he has but has sidelined too much.