Life After Daschle

WSJ’s Kimberly Strassel has an interesting analysis entitled, “Life After Daschle,” examining what having 55 seats will mean in the Senate. She does a solid job explaining the mechanics of the Upper House and noting that “the only numbers that matter are 50 and 60,” the threshholds for a majority (if the Vice President is of your party) and breaking filibusters. She then closes with this:

Yet neither should anyone underestimate the psychological power Mr. Daschle’s defeat will wield over middle-America Democrats. South Dakota voted Bush by 22 percentage points this week, and Mr. Daschle’s demise came precisely because his opponent effectively explained to voters that it was Mr. Daschle who stymied the same president’s agenda. That’s something to chew on if you are the state’s junior senator, Tim Johnson, or Max Baucus of Montana (59% for Bush), or Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln (54%). One of the only Democratic pickups in the Senate this time came via Ken Salazar, who was smart enough to run as a social centrist in Bush-voting Colorado (against “Coors Lite”).

The pressure builds on those red-state Senators up for election in 2006. Is New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman going to vote down a Miguel Estrada nomination, with a state home to the largest proportion of Hispanics in the country? Look too for Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Kent Conrad of North Dakota to be heeding the Ghost of Daschle’s Past.

The GOP’s best shot for leveraging this fear of home state voters is to let Democrats know they’ll be ready with strong candidates who’ll run campaigns that highlight any obstructionism, along with the voting record. Then 60 may not seem like such a big number after all.

Exactly right. A slightly chastened set of Senate Democrats combined with the fact that President Bush won’t spend the second half of his term battling for reelection and the more breathable majority in the Senate should spell much more comity. Democrats will have more incentive to cooperate–or at least not obstruct–and Republicans will have less incentive to play “gotcha.” Indeed, if Reid doesn’t learn from Daschle’s mistakes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of Red State Democrats switch parties.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    I’m already hearing noises from the (Very)rank and file of the Democrats in both houses of Congress, who apparently are reacting to last Tuesday by getting their back up.

    And Ried, even assuming he tries to get his party members to cooperate with the majority, (…the certainty of which is at best questionable….) will be caught by the anger still simmering on the left.

    I tend to doubt the Demorats are going to be anything but obstructive and destructive.

  2. McGehee says:

    Sixty in ’06!