After the election, we all whooped and hollered that the Republicans had picked up more than 60 seats in the House, giving the GOP a majority of more than 50 in that chamber, but we all felt a little blue–admit it!–that the GOP had gained only six seats in the Senate, leaving the Republicans outnumbered in the upper house by 54 to 46.
Over the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve noticed that Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has sounded a lot chirpier–and, frankly, a lot more aggressive–than a man ought to sound when he’s just drawn a bad hand. Why? Well, after looking over a few statistics, I think I know. Sen. McConnell doesn’t believe he’s drawn a bad hand at all. Just take a look a this:
Twenty-three Democratic senators must face re-election in two years (actually, 21 Democrats plus Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both Independents who caucus with the Democrats).
Of those 23, five represent states that John McCain carried in 2008 and George W. Bush carried in 2004. To wit: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia (although just elected this year, Manchin is merely filling out the unexpired term of the late Sen. Byrd).
Four more Democratic senators facing re-election come from states that McCain lost in 2008–but that Bush carried four years earlier. Namely: Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Jim Webb of Virginia.
Which means that although he’ll have only 46 votes in the new Congress to call his own, Mitch McConnell will find that no fewer than nine Democrats are willing–perhaps even eager–to work with him.
Keep grinning, Sen. McConnell. It’ll keep Sen. Reid off balance–and delight everybody here at Ricochet.