Jamelle Bouie made some excellent points earlier today about recent developments in Senate contests and what this might mean in the next Congress. Even with the polling he cites, it’s far too early to tell what’s going to happen to the Senate this November — I count a good 16 races that could easily go either way, leading to anything from the Democrats gaining four seats, for a total of 57, to Republicans grabbing a huge 59 to 41 majority. But the consensus certainly is that things are looking better for the Democrats than many expected.
But what about the senators who will occupy those seats? Again, it’s hard to draw any conclusions with so much uncertainty, but I tend to think that most mainstream Democrats will be pretty happy with the crop they may get.
To begin with: Happiness is pretty much a given for this group once they’ve traded in Joe Lieberman for practically any replacement. Lieberman may not have been quite as bad for liberals as they thought he was (he did, after all, vote for the stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and other liberal bills), but they’ll like Chris Murphy a lot more if he wins in Connecticut.
Elsewhere, however, I don’t really see a single trade or potential new senator who would (or at least should) make mainstream Democrats unhappy.
Trading in Sens. James Webb, Kent Conrad, Herb Kohl, Daniel Akaka and Jeff Bingaman for (if they win) Tim Kaine, Heidi Heitkamp, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono and Martin Heinrich is an excellent deal: Even then the trade represents no ideological change, only Bingaman of the retiring group is really much of a loss for liberals.
Of the seats currently held by Republicans, a win by Democrat Joe Donnelly would probably be disappointing, but Democrats can’t expect much from Indiana; I expect he would vote much as Evan Bayh used to. The only potential new “Democratic” senator who would likely be to the right of what could reasonably be expected to be elected from his or her state, as far as I can see, is independent Angus King from Maine.
Oh, wait, did I forget someone? Yeah, that’s right: Elizabeth Warren is the flip side of losing Lieberman; she and Baldwin are surely the two nominees most rank-and-file Democrats are most excited about.
The real point to make here is that it’s not just about liberal/conservative within a party. The group leaving the Senate this go-round aren’t a great group of Democratic senators, and to the extent these members have been active and effective, it has been either for state interests or, in the case of Lieberman and Conrad, for bipartisan or conservative causes.
We’ll have to see which of this crop even get elected, and you can never tell how they’ll perform as senators, but there’s reason to believe that it’s a crop with a great deal of potential.