Pundits keep trying to determine the number of Senate seats that Republicans must win to take over the majority in the Senate after the 2014 elections. No matter how favorable the chances of Republican pickups might be in November 2014, and no matter how many seats the Republicans actually win, the math that is being bandied about is wrong.
To actually have a working majority in the Senate, rather than just a nominal majority, Republicans need to have a post-election total of 54 seats or more, not merely 51.
Why do Republicans need three extra seats? There are three reasons why, actually. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to put names to the reasons.
The least well known of the three is Senator Ayotte. In her home state she is considered radically conservative. Of course New Hampshire’s other senator, both members of the House and the Governor are deep blue democrats. So calling Senator Ayotte a radical conservative is sort of like saying that Barack Obama is a free market radical, but only when you compare him to Mao Zedong. Since she will be up for re-election in 2016 in a deep blue, very liberal state, how radically conservative will she want to portray herself between the elections of 2014 and her own election battle?
Moving on to Lindsey Graham, let’s look at his conservatism.
Lindsey Graham has said that Rand Paul’s filibuster was a “stunt”.
Senator Graham is a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” that developed the Senate’s version of comprehensive immigration reform that has resulted in significant pushback from nearly all other Republicans, not only within the Congress, but around the nation.
He has also said:
“The Tea Party [is] just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country.”
Saying things of this nature might simply reveal the Senator’s deeply held beliefs and his willingness to provide a basis for a working relationship with his Democrat colleagues. Of course they might also be interpreted as displaying the belief that if anyone disagrees with him, he will channel Barack Obama’s ego. If anyone disagrees with the good senator, they are not merely disagreeing on principle, but are not only wrong but are simply acting out of a desire to the center of attention (see: “stunt”), or they are striving to be above their assigned station in life because they are incapable of developing a “coherent vision for governing the country” which he apparently believes lies solely within the purview of the elite, including himself. Even taking this view in isolation, it seems peculiar since the view most Tea Party people take of a vision for governing the country mirrors the words of the Founding Fathers. Oh, well, I suppose the government that they envisioned is unsustainable, too.
(See also: “Gang of Eight”)
Last, but certainly not least, we have Senator John McCain. John McCain has represented Arizona in the Senate since 1987.
He represents the same state where Governor Jan Brewer has been fighting to enforce immigration laws and has been roundly castigated by Barack Obama and his trusty sidekick, Eric Holder. Senator McCain, interestingly, is also a member of the “Gang of Eight” along with Lindsey Graham, who crafted the senate’s recently proposed immigration reform bill, which effectively provides amnesty for the illegal aliens that his own governor has been railing about. One must acknowledge that the senate’s immigration reform bill also provides for improvements in border security along the southern border (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
Senator McCain has worked closely with the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on reform of managed health care (HMOs) in 2001(which failed to pass) and again on immigration reform in 2007 (which also failed to pass).
Senator McCain also worked closely with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) on campaign finance reform. This time Senator McCain got a win and the legislation passed. Note how well that particular law worked in regulating the campaign finances in the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama turned down public financing of his campaign, and Senator McCain (as a result) remained a senator. I believe the line from Hamlet, “hoist with his own petard” is very appropriate.
His relationship with Tea Party supported colleagues in the Senate has been broadly noted with his use of such colorful phrases such as “wacko-birds”.
These behaviors, statements, relationships and legislative “accomplishments” of Senators McCain and Graham, combined with the re-election concerns of Senator Ayotte tend to make even a casual observer view any claim that these three are reliable conservatives with a certain jaundiced eye. Hence, when pundits, consultants, academics or even your neighbors and co-workers talk of how many Republicans need to win to have a working majority in the senate following the 2014 elections, we should all mentally add three to whatever number is being discussed.