August 26

Last week I argued in response to an Ed Rogers post that winning the Senate will be a lot easier for Republicans than fashioning that victory into an effective governing strategy, but Ed is undeterred. Ed argued yesterday that Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s recent comment that she may not vote to confirm Harry Reid as Senate majority leader if she is elected is part of a pattern of “deceit” by Democratic candidates for the Senate. Other examples of Democratic perfidy that he cites are Alison Lundergan Grimes’s faux support of coal and Mary Landrieu’s ineffective advocacy for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Harry Reid's filibuster reform
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Ed’s outrage may be as sincere as Capt. Renault’s surprise in “Casablanca” that there is gambling at Rick’s, but give him his due. He is a wily political operative and he knows how to go for the jugular on moderate Democrats who are trying to win in states that have turned, at least in registration, to the right. This ideological estrangement becomes more acute in years when these senators have an incumbent president of their party who, like President Obama, has such high negatives, and this disconnect leads to awkward political gymnastics such as Nunn’s.

Let’s assume for a minute that the burden of being a southern Democrat associated with Harry Reid and Barack Obama sinks these candidates in November. (By no means a foregone conclusion). Is such an outcome good for Republicans? Well, certainly Republicans want the majority and they could care less how it takes shape. But can the Republicans effectively govern (or can Democrats for that matter) without some moderate, swing votes in the Senate? Republicans have been losing their moderates to retirement and defeat, and 2016 could be the Democrats’ turn to lose their swing senators. Without some brokers to forge compromises, how will Congress move forward on tax, entitlement and immigration reform? It won’t, and, in that eventuality, voters will know which party to blame.