Weak Democrats Hurt 2010 Senate Chances

Josh Marshall argues that bad picks by Democratic governors in filling vacant seats make it harder than necessary to retain those seats.

voteI was just looking at this run-down of recent polls by Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling. The upshot is that while it seems extremely unlikely Republicans could regain control of the senate next year, it’s not impossible and they look well positioned to make a big dent in the Dems’ majority in the upper chamber.

Most of this has to do with the factors we know about — a bad economy, a charged up right-wing, President Obama’s decline in popularity. But looking more closely at the races something else stood out to me: just how many of the vulnerable seats are ones where bad or questionable picks by Democratic governors have put Democrats in an unnecessarily weak position.

To be clear, not all of these are bad candidates/incumbent senators. But politically they’re all very weak — probably unnecessarily so given the states they come from.

The ones that stand out are Beau Biden in Delaware, yet to be determined in Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, and Michael Bennet in Colorado.


Some of these picks stemmed from personal idiosyncrasies, others unique personal situations. But all were made in the post-2008 political climate when the Democratic ascendancy seemed to flow into an endless future. And the Dems could pay a real price.

Josh admits that there may not have been better candidates to fill the seats in question but he’s frustrated that considerations other than selecting the candidate best able to defend the seat in 2010 were a factor.  And that’s a reasonable enough argument.  Especially since the seats in question would be quite safe had Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Ken Salazar not vacated them prematurely to take seats in the Obama administration.

At the same time, however, I’d note that the Republican candidates to fill these vacancies don’t have the advantage of incumbency.  And they’re presumably running uphill fights, given that Democrats so recently won these seats.

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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. yetanotherjohn says:

    A year is a long time in politics. Even so, if Obama and the dems grace us with another political year like the last, then I think there is a decent chance of the GOP retaking the majority.

  2. Triumph says:

    I’d note that the Republican candidates to fill these vacancies don’t have the advantage of incumbency.

    FYI: half of the races he was talking about won’t have incumbents.