Commentary Magazine


Topic: congressional representative

Maybe a Raffle?

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

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