With less than two days before the primary filing deadline, Democratic Indiana Senator Evan Bayh aborts his re-election campaign.
The sound you just heard was the rumble of the oncoming Republican control of both houses of Congress.
The utterly incompetent handling of health care reform in Congress, plus the complete absence of leadership from Barack Obama, had already made a Republican majority in the House of Representatives as good as a 50/50 proposition. Now, with the retirement of Bayh- who seemed about to coast to an easy re-election over weak Republican opposition- the road is wide open for Republicans to control fifty-one votes in the next Senate.
Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com points out that this is not certain or even likely, in his estimation, because there are several Republican Senate seats they have to defend. I say: bullshit. His most recent estimates of all Senate races for 2010 don't back him up- and they were written just after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts.
First, my count of the seats the Republicans will pick up in 2010 on the way to 51. They currently have 41 members in the Senate, so I'll start with #42:
#42: NORTH DAKOTA (open seat)- It was only a fluke that Democrats ever had this seat at all; no way can they hold it in such a rural red state.
#43: ARKANSAS (Blanche Lincoln)- Unless Lincoln gives up her re-election campaign or loses in the primary, the Democrats are toast here. Even her possible primary challengers don't have much of a chance.
#44: NEVADA (Majority Leader Harry Reid)- The Majority Leader always ends up being the least popular man in the Senate. So it is here. The Democrats would have a bit of a chance if Reid retired and allowed one of his opponents to run, but he won't retire and he'll spend his way to the Democratic nomination... so this seat is lost.
#45: DELAWARE (open seat)- Rep. Mike Castle is wildly popular in his state, and his sole Democratic opponent is a nonentity. This one's as good as gone, too, barring some sort of burnout.
#46: PENNSYLVANIA (Arlen Specter)- Both Specter and his primary opponent Admiral Joe Sestak poll behind Republican opponent Bob Toomey- who is a radical in the mold of his former patron Rick Santorum. Specter is regarded as a political opportunist and too damn old and unhealthy to continue in office anyway; Sestak, despite his military record, is regarded as too liberal. This one isn't certain, but it's good odds behind a Republican recovery.
#47: INDIANA (was Bayh, now open)- Bayh waited until the Republican field was limited to a weak candidate before retiring from the field. Unfortunately, by waiting until the Republicans couldn't pick someone else in a primary, he waited until the Democrats couldn't hold a primary at all, short of an organizational miracle. That means the Democratic candidate will be chosen by the state executive committee of the Democratic Party... and that, in turn, means the Democratic candidate will be an extremely weak nonentity with a vastly shortened campaign time compared to his Republican opponent. Bayh has, in essence, given this seat to the Republicans on a silver platter... unless their weak and relatively unpopular candidate botches it.
#48: COLORADO (effectively open)- Reaction has set in in Colorado to the Senator appointed to fill a hole created by Barack Obama's cabinet. Colorado may be trending more Democratic in the long term, but it has a lot of extreme Republican strongholds- including and especially Colorado Springs. Barring a massive (and not expected) decline in unemployment and jump in the economy, the Democrats lose this one, too.
#49: ILLINOIS (open)- The Democratic nominee is tarnished by association with impeached governor Rod Blagojevich. The Republican nominee is a moderate (by Republican standards) who is popular statewide. In my book- and Silver to the contrary notwithstanding- this one is going GOP.
#50: NEW YORK (Gillibrand- appointed to replace Clinton)- Gillibrand, in her short time as an appointed Senator, has become very unpopular in her state. Her main Democratic opponent, Harold Ford, is regarded as an arrogant carpetbagger with no credibility. If either of these two gets the nomination, they're badly vulnerable- and possibly facing a former Republican governor for an opponent. Another toss-up which, in the current environment, means a GOP pick-up.
"But wait," you say, "that's only fifty seats! In a fifty-fifty split the vice president gets a vote!" Well, leaving aside the fact that certain Blue Dog Democrats will vote with the Republicans a lot of the time... there's one man with a plan:
#51: CONNECTICUT (Joe Lieberman)- If you don't think Joe will flip parties the instant he can throw control of the Senate to the Republicans, you don't know Joe.
And if Lieberman doesn't flip, there's always Roger Pryor of Arkansas or Max "Negotiate With Republicans to the Death" Baucus of Nebraska who are also good bets to flip.
And as for the states Nate Silver thinks Democrats can pick up?
MISSOURI- Incumbent Roy Blunt is now five points ahead in the polls.
ARIZONA- The teabagger talk-radio host running against McCain still beats the generic Democratic opponent- and the Democrats have absolutely nobody to run against him to speak of. (Remember, Arizona is the state of Joe "I Break the Law to Uphold It" Arpaio- and the only state to oppose a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.)
OHIO- The open corruption of the Republican state government from 2000 to 2006 is already forgotten.
KENTUCKY- It doesn't matter if Rand Paul is an even bigger teabagger than his dad Ron Paul, and it doesn't matter that he has no experience whatever- if he wins the nomination, he's STILL ahead five points or more in the polls over any Democratic opponent.
FLORIDA- Rubio's got the teabaggers. Meek has... absolutely nobody. And Rubio's up as high as TEN points in the polls.
The best hope the Democrats have for a gain is New Hampshire- and that's only if the Republican establishment candidate falls to one of the teabagger/Free State candidates.
Democrats, if you want to accomplish anything at all- even getting to choose the pattern of the office drapes- you have to do it now. Because in 2011, the Republicans will be quite firmly back in control, with only a presidential veto standing between them and total power in Washington.
And when- not if- it happens, it will only be the Democrats' own fault. Democrats forfeited the message wars on the stimulus package and health care reform. Democrats caved in from the start to Republican demands and then, with a supermajority in the Senate and a commanding majority in the House, utterly failed to accomplish even one item in their long-term agenda. Democrats have shown themselves too internally divided, too spineless, and above all too incompetent to govern.
And, for lack of any other options on the table, that means the voting public will give the government back to the Republicans come November.
God help us all.