With Hillary Clinton's impending retirement as Secretary of State, President Obama has to find someone to replace her. The candidate with the most buzz is Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has openly yearned for the job for years. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he is undoubtedly qualified for it, too. The problem is that under a Massachusetts law passed in 2004 by the Democratic-controlled legislature over then-governor Mitt Romney's veto, the governor can no longer fill Senate vacancies. If a Senate seat becomes vacant, a special election is held and Democrats are wetting their pants over the strong possibility of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who was just defeated by Elizabeth Warren, winning the special election.
The Democrats have 55 seats in the new Senate, so they can afford to lose one--right now. However, a look at the 2014 Senate calendar shows that Democrats have a half dozen vulnerable seats and the Republicans have none. Also, the President's party generally does poorly in Congress in the 6th year of his term. If Obama appoints Kerry to be Secretary of State, it won't matter now, but it may hand the Republicans control of the Senate in 2014. Kerry's qualifications aside, from a political standpoint, a Kerry appointment would be extremely foolish.
Obama has alternatives, of course. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who was just defeated by a fellow Democrat, Brad Sherman, as a result of California's new jungle primary system, has served as Kerry's counterpart in the House, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. While he may not be lobbying as intensively for the job as Kerry, his appointment would not trigger a special election. Yet another potential candidate is Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was defeated in a primary this year by Richard Mourdock. Lugar is respected on both sides of the aisle as an expert on foreign affairs. His appointment would make people who view bipartisanship a goal unto itself very happy. The main downside of a Lugar appointment is that he is 80 years old and the job entails a massive amount of travel. On the positive side, he would be confirmed by the Senate instantly on a vote of 100 to 0.
Yet another name being floated is that of Jon Huntsman, who served as Obama's ambassador to China until he quit to run for President. Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin and deep knowledge of China is certainly a plus for a Secretary of State. If he is offered the job and takes it, that pretty much ends any possibilities of his running for President as a Republican, although he has openly speculated that the country needs a third party, something along the lines of the Republican Party under President Eisenhower.
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker is one of the few Republicans willing to face up to the real reason Mitt Romney lost: the Republican Party itself. Her point is that if Romney were freed of the constraints of the tea party dominated Republican Party, he would have run as a sensible business-oriented moderate and emphasized that Obamacare was a great idea, and one Obama got from him. But he was forced to compete in the primaries with a bunch of clowns and one semiserious politician who failed to realize that national politics are tougher than Texas politics. This circus made Romney say things that tied him in knots and laid the seeds of his own destruction, such as telling illegal aliens to self deport. If he didn't have to appeal to a lot of people who are way out in right field somewhere, he could have simply said he favored the immigration reform plan co-authored by Sen. John McCain and pushed by President George W. Bush. But if he had said that, he wouldn't have survived the primaries. Parker's comments are probably the most painful, but most accurate, from any conservative writer so far. Blaming Sandy is not going to fix the Republican Party's problems.
Roll Call has a good rundown of congressional races by region of the country. In the West, Rep. Pete Stark (R-CA), a 20-term incumbent, went down to a Democrat. In CA-30, two Democrats slugged it out in the general election and Brad Sherman came out on top. The first (and probably only) gay Japanese-American Democrat was elected to the House in CA-41. He will join Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), congressman-elect Sean Maloney (D-NY), and senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) as the only openly gay members of Congress. Mazie Hirono will be the first Asian woman to serve in the Senate. In WA-01, a new district, Suzan DelBene, a wealthy former Microsoft executive running as a Democrat beat yet another Republican who talked too much about rape. In Washington's new seat, Democrat Denny Heck won an easy victory.
In the Mountain West, not so much changed. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) hung onto his seat despite a challenge from Coors Brewing Company scion, Joe Coors, Jr., who funded his own campaign. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) lost his Senate bid badly against Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), but the Republicans held his vacated House seat. The GOP's up-and-coming star, a black woman, Mia Love, running against Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) is no longer up and coming. Matheson won.
In the Great Plains, the big surprise was Heidi Heitkamp's victory over Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND) in a state where Obama got only 39% of the vote. Less of a surprise was the reelection of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), an outspoken tea partier who beat Christie Vilsack, the wife of a former Iowa governor. The Democrats' last-minute play of getting former Nebraska governor and senator Bob Kerrey to try to hold the seat of retiring senator Ben Nelson didn't work. Nebraska elected its first woman senator, Deb Fischer.
In the Midwest, the Democrats did well. They unexpectedly picked up a Senate seat in Indiana when tea party candidate Richard Mourdock beat Sen. Richard Lugar (R-INI) in the primary and then started talking about rape. The Democrats held the seat of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) in a tough battle, with Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) beating four-term governor Tommy Thompson. In Illinois, the Democrats picked up four previously Republican House seats, mostly due to the Democratic-controlled state legislature aggressively gerrymandering the districts.
In the South, the Republicans held their own, except in Virginia, where Obama carried the state and Tim Kaine held the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who got bored with being a senator. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) won reelection more easily than expected when Cornelius McGillicuddy IV (a.k.a. Connie Mack), ran a surprisingly inept campaign. To make it worse, his wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), also went down to defeat, probably the first husband-and-wife team to be running at opposite ends of the country and lose both races. Allen West, the black tea party firebrand went down to defeat in Florida, but refuses to concede. In another Florida district, white Democratic firebrand Alan Grayson made a comeback in a new district.
The Mid-Atlantic region, was a mixed bag. Some Republicans were defeated (Roscoe Bartlett, Nan Hayworth, and Ann Marie Buerkle) but so were some Democrats (Mark Critz and Kathy Hochul). In a sense, this returns things to normal, with Democrats in blue districts and Republicans in red districts. All the Democratic senators up for reelection in the region won.
In New England, the Democrats did very well. Elizbeth Warren knocked off Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), and independent Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Democrats, won an open Senate seat in Maine. The Democrats captured both House seats from the Republicans in New Hampshire. In the new House, there will be no Republicans from New England present. New Hampshire is the first state ever to have only women in the House and Senate delegations (and also the governor's mansion). In Connecticut, Linda McMahon demonstrated that spending $100 million of your own money can't buy you a Senate seat if the people really don't like you. It was her second consecutive drubbing.