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dalepetrie's avatar

Is my crazy ass political hypothetical even within the realm of possibility?

Asked by dalepetrie (18009points) December 17th, 2008

OK, here goes. Here’s what I know. The Dems have 57 Senate seats locked down, one is in limbo (Obama’s former seat) as we don’t know if Blagojevich will be impeached and his successor will appoint, or if Blagojevich will move to fill the seat or if there will be some sort of special election called, so there’s probably a 99% chance it will end up staying a Democratic seat, but we can’t say with 100% certainty. But let’s assume for a moment that stays a Dem seat, the count is now 58.

Minnesota is counting disputed ballots and awaiting a challenge on a lawsuit regarding wrongly rejected absentee ballots, and no matter what happens it will probably end up in the courts, and of course the Senate itself could intervene. If I had to bet on this one, I’d say I have very strong reasons to believe Franken is going to win in the end and it’s going to give the Dems 59 to 41 (assuming you count the 2 independents that caucus with the Dems).

So, let’s use those assumptions for now and say that at least, from the standpoint of an observer, it is actually not only possible, but possibly likely that the Dems will end up with 59 seats. And there was a LOT of talk about getting to 60 before Chambliss beat Martin in the Georgia runoff, but clearly now, hopes of 60, at least until 2010 are dead, right? Well, this is where my crazy ass hypothetical comes in.

Let’s look at what else we know. First off, Obama is appointing his cabinet right now. We know that he has appointed Democratic Governors and Senators so far. We know that he said in his campaign that he’d put “some” Republicans in his cabinet, and so far he’s only put one, if he’s being sincere and doesn’t want people to call Gates a “token”, he’d probably need to appoint at least 2 more Republicans. In case you don’t see where I’m going with this, what if Obama appointed a Republican Senator to his cabinet? That would leave the seat open.

Now, another thing I know is that what happens when a Senate seat is vacated varies from state to state. When the campaigns were going, there were questions about “what happens to the candidate’s Senate seat if he becomes the President, could it switch parties?” And the answer was no, because in Illinois, the Governor appoints whomever he wants (as we’re all painfully aware in light of recent events), and the governor being a Democrat would undoubtedly appoint a Democrat (of course we assumed Blagojevich had at least SOME integrity at that point). But in Arizona, the governor was a Democrat, so if McCain had won, the question was whether this could be an issue, and the answer was no because under Arizona law, the Governor is bound to appoint someone of the same party as the person vacating the seat.

So, my assumption is that it’s theoretically possible that there could be a state with at least one Republican Senator, where the governor is a Democrat, who would be able to replace a vacating Republican Senator with an incoming Democratic Senator.

Given the assumption that Obama might appoint as many as 2 more Republicans to his cabinet, and given that he has personal relationships to both Dems and Republicans in the Senate having worked with them, and given that he has shown he likes to appoint Senators to his cabinet, it seems “theoretically” possible that Obama COULD appoint a Republican Senator to his cabinet in a state where that seat would then change hands due to a sitting Democratic Governor.

My question then is, do any such seats exist, and if so, are any of the people in these seats where this is theoretically possible moderate enough and experiened enough in one area where Obama could appoint them to a cabinet post and expect that person to do a good job (by Obama’s standards)? Is this even within the outside realm of possibility?

Now, I don’t think Obama cares as much about 60 as most Democrats, and I don’t think it’s as meaningful a number as many made it out to be because there can always be dissenters on either side, and that does require the independents to side with the Dems. Plus it seems the best way to keep fillibusters to a minimum might be to actually require the fillibuster (instead of having Reid vote for cloture, creating a procedural fillibuster), which would actually force Mitch McConnell to stand up there and read from the phone book for 19 hours. And of course Dems can keep fillibusters from happening in the first place by threatening to blockade Republican favored legistlation that might otherwise have bi-partisan support. So I don’t see 60 as all that big of a deal, and I don’t think Obama does either, and hence I doubt he would specifically go after this strategy.

But what if…? Given the current layout, is there any real world scenario anyone can come up with where it could work?

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10 Answers

jasongarrett's avatar

Ohio has a Democratic governor and a moderate Republican senator (Voinovich).

I can’t believe I read that entire question.

dalepetrie's avatar

Oh snap, didn’t think anyone would be able to answer that quickly! I wonder if Voinovich would be well suited for any of the posts he has yet to name? Thanks, GA for you!

laureth's avatar

That’s an interesting idea. I would research it if I were at home, but alas, I’m not. I’ll be watching, though!

There’s also the possibility that a Republican Senator could, under these circumstances, decline the nomination and keep his or her seat for these reasons.

Mizuki's avatar

Dale, “I think you gave the answer—Dems can keep fillibusters from happening in the first place by threatening to blockade Republican favored legistlation that might otherwise have bi-partisan support. So I don’t see 60 as all that big of a deal.”

dalepetrie's avatar

I agree it’s not a big deal, Mizuki…never was a big deal to me, and I don’t think it ever was to Obama…there are other ways, we’d just have to use them (not sure if we will or not, but that’s another problem). I’m just hypothesizing whether it could happen, just occurred to me that this loophole might exist and no one has ever to my knowledge brought it up before (at least not anywhere I’ve looked).

miasmom's avatar

Wow, it is very possible and would not be shocked or surprised if it happened!

girlofscience's avatar

Here, we’ll have 1 D and 1 R Senator (as Kay Hagan [D] will be replacing Elizabeth Dole [R]). The other Senator is Richard Burr®. Our current governor is a Democrat (Mike Easley), and our governor-elect is a Democrat (Bev Perdue). Unfortunately, after a quick glance over Burr’s wikipedia, he seems pretty much completely awful in every way, so I highly doubt he would ever be appointed to anything by Obama!

Also, I’ve been wondering about this lately, and perhaps you know. Why do some historically extremely red states have Democrat governors and vice versa? If they have never gone blue for the presidential elections, why would the gubernatorial elections be blue?

dalepetrie's avatar

@GOS – You pose a very interesting question about red states w/ blue governors. I will give my perspective, considering I live in the bluest of states (MN, which didn’t even vote for Reagan in ‘84), but look at our Governors….Tim Pawlenty…(R) in his 2nd term, before him Jessie Ventura…(I), before him Arnie Carlson…(R) for two terms. You have to go all the way back to 1990 to see a Democratic governor….18 years, in which time we’ve never supported a Republican for President. So, what does give?

Well, I think you may be looking at a couple big factors, and this is all just a theory. First off, I think trends move at different speeds at the Federal level vs. the State level. That is, if your state starts to become a bit more liberal, people might be more willing to make the change more quickly at one level or the other, depending on the circumstances. I think Virginia is a good example. When you look at how they have been traditionally a red state, population shifts made them a bit more blue, and they elected Tim Kaine, even though they’d gone for Bush. But now they’ve supported Obama.

Another thing that I’d point out is in many states, the gubenatorial election is NOT held at the same time as the Presidential election, and therefore, there really are no coattails for anyone to ride when a popular candidate runs from the opposite party. In other words, if you shifted the election cycle by a couple years, in many states the governor would reflect the Presidential choice. And the Senators are staggered so 1/3 are up for election every 2 years, and 2 years can be a complete sea change in politics.

Add to this that as much as people like to make hay about categorizing people into one political view or another, I tend to think the majority of people vote for the person, not the party. I thik about 30% on either side vote for the party, and 40% vote for the individual, but even some of those in the 30 on either side can be swayed if something unusual happens (like say a President of one party screws things up so badly that everyone is ready for a HUGE change).

Of course a lot of it also has to do with in a more local election, people are really looking for different things than in a Federal election. For Senators they want their states represented, for President they want their ideology represented. And of course a lot also has to do with the candidate, how good are they at campaigning, getting out the vote, and connecting with people and convincing them that they are the right choice? In a Presidential election, you are hearing what happens all over the country, in a Senatorial election it’s more localized.

I think in short you have different reasons for voting in different people to different offices, and each time there’s an election, if the timing is different, than so is the electorate itself. Consider also that you may have a situation where Democrats are really excited by their candidate (as you did this year). But 2 years from now, they’re by and large happy, somewhat complacent, and people go to the polls, Dems think they’ll win the Senate race, but it’s not as sexy, many of the Dems may not see how much it matters to them the way the Presidency matters, so they may not turn out in as big of numbers, even though they represent the majority, whereas Republicans are somewhat disenfranchised and want to change what they can because they feel shut out.

Such is a Democracy.

jasongarrett's avatar

Party organization plays a bigger role at the state and local level. Once a party has dominated for a while they are better organized, better funded, and are generally able to field better candidates.

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