A new playing field in the Senate

GOP fundraising firms and political operatives are smacking their chops lately over the playing field that is shaping up in the U.S. Senate come 2012. For many, the reality that five Democratic senators would already hang up their spurs and ride off in the sunset never really crossed their minds.
 
Yet that is what’s happened in recent months. From Joe Lieberman (Conn.), a recovering Democrat who ran as an Independent, to Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jim Webb (Va.) and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, many stalwarts of the chamber are packing it in.
 
A recent story inside the Beltway pegged the senators as tired of “the grind” of every cycle, having to raise money and grip and grin through the election season. But I sense it’s more than that. After all, these folks belong to the most exclusive club in the world. Being in the Senate isn’t exactly retail politics, especially when you only have to run every six years, and fundraising is made all the more easy since every senator chairs at least one committee or subcommittee. The constituencies are there to generate the cash.
 
No, this is much bigger, and much worse for the Democratic Party. They’re tired of defending the liberal agenda of President Obama. And the deck is stacked against them for the next 18 months.
 
For states such as Virginia, North Dakota and even now in Hawaii, it’s not so easy to kowtow to an agenda as far left as Obama’s. They saw the writing on the wall, and I can’t say that I blame them for throwing in the towel so early when this president has seemingly doubled down on his blueprint.
 
At least two more are quietly mulling their future. Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl have been rumored as pondering exits of their own. Nelson would certainly feel the heat in his home state, and not just from the Tea Party. Independents are scratching their hands over his votes in recent years, and what exactly this “free thinker” was thinking when he voted aye for so many of Obama’s plans.
 
A path is now open to that magical number of 51 in the Senate for Mitch McConnell. The stakes are much higher, on both sides. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can’t count on his party faithful to toe the line as regularly as before. This also means Sen. McConnell (R-Ky.) needs to pay more attention to how his House counterparts are faring on key items such as spending reductions. For soon, he could have the opportunity to move their actions forward in a body that now has no appetite for these conservative moves.
 
These next few months will spin an interesting tale of politics and policy. I’d watch for several more “mavericks” step out, and several new faces to emerge to take leadership roles on both sides of the aisle.


Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.