Projected New Senate: 48 Democrats 52 Republicans
News from the Votemaster
Here's the surprising new poll mentioned yesterday. According to Rasmussen, Rep. Harold Ford (D) has essentially caught up with former Chattanooga mayor, Bob Corker (R). The polls now put Corker a mere 1 percentage point ahead of Ford, 45% to 44%. The significance of this poll is as follows. To retake the Senate, the Democrats will need to win Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, plus one more and hold New Jersey. There aren't many candidates for the "one more" but suddenly Tennessee may be in play. But one poll is just one poll. Corker had been substantially ahead and might still be.
A second poll shows Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) miles head of hapless businessman John Raese, who is making his fifth quest for public office in West_Virginia, the first four ending in failure. This one will, too.
Polls in Michigan continue to show Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) with a comfortable lead.
Many people have said that the Senate, which used to tackle things in a bipartisan manner, has become an increasingly bitter and polarized chamber, just like the House. I decided to actually look for some data on this to see if it is true. Hundreds interest groups, from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (a union) to the National Ready Mix Concrete Association (an industry lobbying group) rate every member of Congress on every vote they care about and then compute a score indicating how friendly the member is to them.
The More election data link above gives a pointer to a Web page from Project Vote Smart that lists dozens of such rating groups. I have chosen eight representative ones and noted how each senator is rated by each group and then computed the mean score and sorted the senators by their mean scores. At first I thought I would pick four progressive groups and four conservative groups, but then I realized that most senators would end up with a score of 50% and the table would say nothing. Besides, Data should never presented in a form where sometimes high is good and low is bad (say, pole vaulting) and sometimes low is good and high is bad (say, the 100-yard dash); it is confusing (100-yard dash scores should be reported in miles per hour, so high is good). (The data are also available in .xls and .csv formats so you can investigate them yourself).
So ultimately, I picked eight progressive groups so if you are a progressive, a high score is good (the
senator supports all things progressive) but if you are a conservative, a low score is good (the senator
opposes all things progressive). The eight groups are:
The full results are very interesting and explain a lot. Here are the top 10 and bottom 10:
What struck me as amazing is the fact that the center is not holding. If we call senators who score at least 50% progressive and senators who score less than 50% conservative, then every Democratic senator is progressive save Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who comes close at 49% (due to his pro-life stance). Every Republican senator is a conservative except Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) at 67%, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) at 53% and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) at 52% (and all three of these come from New England).
What is more amazing is the lack of senators in the middle. If we look in the range 33% to 67%, only 6 of the 100 senators are there, the four just mentioned plus Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) at 37% and Sen. Arlen Spector (R-PA) at 33%. That means that 94% of the Senate consists of people at one extreme or the other and the division is completely by party.
Things were not always like this. There was a time when Democrats like Scoop Jackson (D-WA) were considerably more conservative than Republicans like Jack Javits (R-NY). With such a huge partisan divide, it is not surprising that Congress can't deal with any of the country's problems and is held in unbelievably low regard by most Americans.
What is also interesting is to look at the records of the senators running for President. After all, during the campaign their opponents will put these voting records under a microscope. Here are the main contenders:
Does perception agree with reality? Sometimes. Hillary has spent the past year trying to convince everyone how much of a right-winger she is, but her voting record shows otherwise. She is one of the most progressive senators, slightly more so than even Russell Feingold, who, if he learns to write poetry, has potential to be the Gene McCarthy of 2008.
John McCain and Chuck Hagel have the opposite problem. They are trying to convince the voters that they are moderates and mavericks. But their voting records show them both to be very conservative, Hagel more so than McCain. Allen is at least honest. He is running far to the right and he is far to the right. This will serve him well in the primaries but a lot less well in the general election.
Then there is the very special case of Lincoln Chafee, who is functionally a Democrat, and almost tied with the nation's most popular senator, Kent Conrad (D-ND). No wonder Rhode Island Republicans are furious with him. He is a lot like Jack Javits and not at all like Jeff Sessions. The only problem for them is that a vote for Stephen Laffey (R) in Tuesday's primary means that Sheldon Whitehouse (D) will almost certainly be elected the next senator from RI.
Take a look at the full chart- it is quite informative.
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-- The Votemaster