In addition to having very bad odds in the 2014 Senate races, with more Democrats--especially vulnerable Democrats up for reelection--things just seem to be getting worse for them. In addition to the announced retirement of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), now Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has said he is calling it quits at the end of this session of the Senate. Thus two safe Democratic seats are suddenly in play. The only Republican senator who has said he's had it is Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). While that will set up a very bitter primary fight, it doesn't increase the odds of the seat flipping. The chance of a Democrat winning a Senate seat in Georgia is pretty low, no matter who the candidates are.
Ever since Republicans in several blue states proposed to allocate their electoral votes by congressional district--a plan RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has applauded--Democrats have been freaking out. University of California law professor and election-law specialist Rick Hasen has now written a piece telling them to calm down. Here's why.
First, had the proposed rules been in place in 2012, the candidates would have campaigned very differently. Obama wouldn't have bothered to campaign in big cities, for example, since those would be givens. Instead he would have campaigned in more evenly divided congressional districts, something the often-Republican occupants of those seats might not have appreciated.
Second the whole notion of a swing state would vanish. It would no longer matter who got the most votes in Ohio. Most of the districts would be a given one way or the other, with skirmishes in maybe three or four of them. All of a sudden swing states would lose a lot of attention, money and clout. After thinking about this for 10 minutes, some state legislatures might decide picking up 4 or 5 electoral votes wasn't a good tradeoff for making the state largely irrelevant in presidential politics.
Third, the optics are poor. If Virginia were to switch systems, it would be a public admission that Republicans never expect to carry Virginia again and get all of its electoral votes. What kind of a message is that?
Fourth, there could be a major backlash. Democrats would call this "rig the vote" and say Republicans can't win by convincing people they have better ideas, so they are reduced to monkeying with the rules. When Republicans replied that the new way was fairer, Democrats would counter with "then why aren't Texas and Georgia doing it?"
Fifth, effectively, presidential elections would be largely determined by who got to draw the congressional districts. That would instantly nationalize local elections. A Republican state senator from a nice suburban county somewhere would be firmly lashed to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and the Democrat in the race would be saying: "a vote for my opponent is automatically a vote for the next Republican presidential candidate." With the Republican brand so unpopular, many state legislators would not like to be carrying McConnell and Boehner on their backs.
For these and other reasons, Hasen thinks that few, if any, states will actually switch to the system used by Maine and Nebraska, with split electoral votes.
If Democrats insist on fretting about something--and they often do--how about worrying about the MassINC poll showing former senator Scott Brown beating Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) 53% to 31% for John Kerry's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat? Now it is still earlier in the race--Brown hasn't even announced his candidacy yet--but Brown is well know and well liked in Massachusetts, even if Elizabeth Warren, who just beat him in November, is liked more.
Markey isn't even the Democratic nominee yet. While the establishment is strongly for him, he may face a primary challenge from Rep. Steve Lynch (D-MA), who is far more conservative than Markey. A competitive primary might actually help the Democrats, however, since that race would dominate the news for months, giving both Lynch and Markey lots of publicity and denying it to Brown, who will probably be unopposed.