Tuesday, December 15, 2009


What a difference a year makes

It's starting to look a lot like 1994:

As "Saturday Night Live" character Emily Litella (played by the late Gilda Radner) would say, "Never mind."

Eleven months ago, still in the shadow of Barack Obama's presidential victory over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats looked likely to gain anywhere from two to as many as five additional Senate seats.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) was in trouble, while GOP open seats in Florida and Missouri were clearly at risk. Doubts about the prospects of at least four other Republican incumbents - North Carolina's Richard Burr, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, Louisiana's David Vitter and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter (who has since switched parties) - ranged from uncertain to unsettling for party strategists. And that was before Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) announced he would not run again.

But since then, GOP recruiting successes and a change in the national political environment have shifted the outlook for next year's Senate contests. Suddenly, Democratic seats started to look more and more vulnerable.

As 2009 draws to a close, Democrats now could lose seats, a dramatic change from January that could end the party's 60-seat majority in less than two years. And GOP gains could be large enough to sink any major Democratic initiatives not passed before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections.

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