Gary H. Johnson, Jr. writes of a potential huge win for Republicans in the U.S. Senate in 2012.
U.S. Senate Races 2012: Is a Republican Super Majority Possible?
Posted by: Gary H. Johnson
Notes from The Bunker
August 11, 2011
The 2012 election news cycle will be dominated by Presidential politics. Far less attention will be paid to the U.S. Senate races; but, the Senate is poised for a massive sea change in 2012. In all probability, the slender Democrat majority will fall in 2012. But how large will the shift be? Is a Republican sweep in the offing? Is a Republican super majority possible in the U.S. Senate?
With 21 Democrat-controlled and two Independent seats on the ballot in 2012, a 13-seat swing is not out of the realm of possibility.
To achieve a three-fifths Republican super majority in the U.S. Senate, 10 Republican seats must be maintained amid internal jockeying. A minimum of 13 Democrat-controlled seats must also fall to the conservative constitutional Republicans if a 60 seat majority is to be attained. For every Republican seat lost, a Democrat seat must be conquered.
The Republican establishment in D.C. is gearing up to take on the Democrat field. Tea Party activism is framing the Republican primaries and changing the dynamics of the Senate races. With at least five Democrats retiring and the Independent Joseph Lieberman opting not to run, Tea Party candidates are positioning to snatch the Senate majority.
Fully half of the Republican U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in 2012 are considered vulnerable. A close analysis; however, indicates a plus or minus one (+1/-1) gain/loss probability in the 10 “at risk” Republican-controlled Senate Seats. The Tea Party candidate, Ted Cruz, may assume the Texas Senate seat of Hutchinson. All other Tea Party challengers will require effective fund raising in their primary challenges to gain a foothold in the upper house of Congress. The Massachusetts seat of Senator Brown is, at present, the most vulnerable Republican-controlled seat in 2012.
What is certain is that moving D.C.’s political goalposts to the right begins with holding the line.
The Republican Senate Seats
It is probable that Tea Party movement voters will urge Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine to step aside by fielding alternative candidates and mounting healthy primary run-offs that paint the sitting Republican Senators as RINOs (Republicans in name only) that pander to Democrat interests and regularly vote against conservative measures.
A Tea Party movement to retire Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has been launched by FreedomWorks PAC.
The Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock announced his decision to challenge Senator Lugar in the May 8, 2012 primary. Claiming that his Senate bid is backed by three-quarters of the Republican county chairmen, Mourdock is primed to rise as a Tea Party favored candidate in Indiana.
In Maine, Tea Party organizer Andrew Ian Dodge is actively campaigning to challenge Senator Snowe.
It is rumored that Tea Party Republican Jason Chaffetz, the third district Utah Representative, is leaning towards challenging Senator Hatch; but, with less than a quarter million dollars in campaign financing raised to date, Congressman Chaffetz would effectively be ditching a winning re-election bid for a long shot.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has been targeted by conservative Red State blogger Erick Erickson for meandering across the aisle, though Tennessee Tea Party activists have largely exonerated their local conservative candidate.
Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts may meet resistance in a primary run-off due his record of voting with Democrats. Though largely supported by Tea Party activists in his special election following the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Brown has rejected the Tea Party label, stating that he is “a Republican from Massachusetts.” This singular statement may stunt both Senator Brown’s re-election bid and the Presidential aspirations of Romney, a died in the wool Massachusetts Republican.
Nevada Senator Dean Heller has declined to join the Tea Party Caucus in Washington, D.C. However, his vote against the recent debt ceiling increase is likely to assure him a large level of Tea Party support in 2012.
Two Republican-controlled Senate seats will be vacant in the coming election cycle.
Arizona Senator Jon Kyl and Texas Senator Hutchinson are both retiring.
Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake, to the ire of many Tea Party organizers, has already raised over $2 million for a run at Senator Kyl’s vacant seat. It should be noted that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin recently purchased a home in Scottsdale. Though Palin has not yet registered as a potential candidate in the Arizona Senate race, her move may indicate that a primary showdown between the establishment Republican Flake and a Tea Party favorite is in the cards for 2012.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul recently endorsed the Texas Tea Party hope, Ted Cruz, in the crowded primary in which at least two establishment politicians, former Texas Lt. Governor Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Leppert, are vying for the GOP nomination to replace Hutchinson.
Wyoming Senator Barrasso‘s re-election bid will probably be the least contested by the Tea Party movement. His conservative push against Obama Care has made the “orthopedic surgeon” one of the most powerful Republican weapons in Washington. Republican Senator Wicker will also face little Tea Party opposition in Mississippi though a number of conservative bloggers have targeted his questionable decisions on the Hill.
On the whole, the Republican establishment’s Senate seats in Wyoming, Tennessee and Mississippi appear impregnable to Tea Party challengers.
The likelihood of tea partiers swaying the elections in Indiana, Maine and Utah, seems at this point, distant; but then, the likelihood of Democrat challengers mounting campaigns that could overthrow the sitting Republican Senators in those states is also slim. Senator Lugar (IN) has over $3.5 million in electioneering cash on hand. Senator Snowe (ME) has over $2.7 million in election cash. Senator Hatch (UT) has over $3.4 million in cash on hand.
Despite Senator Lugar’s massive campaign fund, a recent Basswood Research poll pegged the Lugar-Mourdock race a virtual dead heat.
Andrew Ian Dodge will be hard pressed to raise the type of funds necessary to run the type of campaign that could threaten to unseat Senator Snowe in Maine; however, a strong anti-RINO blog current suggests that Olympia Snowe’s 2012 re-election bid will be won or lost in the primary election.
At present, the Tea Party movement’s Senate focus will likely coalesce around Ted Cruz as its lone rising star in the seats currently controlled by the Republican Party.
Dean Heller, with over $2 million cash on hand in his Nevada full-term Senate bid, will need Tea Party votes to fend off an expected Democrat assault.
Richard Mourdock may capture the conservative movement’s imagination in Indiana; and, with a few key endorsements and a well-managed chain of tactical PAC sponsorships, Andrew Dodge could be an unexpected primary winner and the next Republican Senator from Maine.
The current unknown in the Republican-controlled Senate seats is whether or not a Tea Party candidate will rise to challenge Scott Brown in Massachusetts for the 2012 nomination.
No viable Democrat candidates have yet filed papers to seek the U.S. Senate seats in Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah or Wyoming. Arizona Democrats are waiting to see if Gabby Giffords will be healthy enough to seek the Arizona nomination. Texas Democrats are angling to run retired Lieutenant General Sanchez against the Republican contender.
As an added bonus for Republicans, Nevada’s District 1 incumbent, Democrat House Representative Shelly Berkley, is seeking the Senate post currently held by Dean Heller, leaving a Nevada House seat vacant. Plus, results of a Public Policy Polling questionnaire lend a strong likelihood to the possibility that Utah Representative Jim Matheson might file to run for Senate against Hatch or Chaffetz, which would leave another House seat open for the likes of Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to make a run for Congress.
With nine out of ten seats well in hand in the upcoming referendum on the Obama Administration’s failed economic policies, the possibility of a super majority in the U.S. Senate will depend on the terrain of the 21 Democrat-controlled and two Independent seats on the ballot. The Tea Partiers are already digging in for the 2012 contests.
Gary H. Johnson, Jr.: Foreign Policy Contributing Editor for the Tea Party Tribune, Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute, Contributing Editor at Family Security Matters, Jihad & SCF Consultant for hire.
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