Monday, February 21, 2011


If I were advising Barack Obama, I'd suggest that he should be spending time -- a lot of time -- in constantly wooing Dick Lugar and Olympia Snowe. Both of them appear to be iffy, at best, for renomination (here's the latest on Lugar). And that's before what's likely to be a bitter government shutdown fight in March, which will probably make the position of GOP moderates even more tenuous.

Both would be locks in the general election as long as they could get nominated, but that's more likely -- much more likely, in Lugar's case, I think -- on the Democratic side. Of course, the problem here is Arlen Specter's fate last year, when he switched parties and then was defeated in the Democratic primary. But Obama should be doing what he can to clear the way.

Is it plausible that they might switch? I think so, even though both have deep ties to the GOP, because their version of the party is close to extinct. And because, when it comes down to it, most politicians really like winning elections a whole lot more than they like losing elections. That hardly means it's a sure thing, but it does mean that it's probably worth some presidential time and energy. Especially since the payoff would be very nice for the Dems.

(Switching was discouraged by the Pennsylvania Senate results, but switching in the other direction seems entirely implausible. Does anyone think that Ben Nelson could win a GOP primary for Senate? I wouldn't give him a 10% chance).


  1. "And because, when it comes down to it, most politicians really like winning elections a whole lot more than they like losing elections."
    I think this should be amended to "most ELECTED politicians". There are quite a few third party candidates (and some major party ones, like Alan Keyes) who seem to be happy perennially losing.

  2. If Lugar was seriously considering that, he wouldn't have tried to hold the line on DADT. He seems reasonable on a lot of issues, but socially he seems willing to hold the line. I can see him going for the GOP nom on social issues rather than trying to flip.

    Snowe seems more palatable. Given what happened with Allen last time, I can see Obama being able to line up Dems to support Snowe there given some sort of tangible statement on her part for them to rally around (even if it's as simple as criticizing Gov. LePage)

  3. I think Snowe has decided firmly that she is staying in the GOP camp. It helps her tremendously that she has the loyal backing of Gov. LePage, a hard-right tea partier. There's a reason Snowe's most prominent challenger so far is a blogger, while Lugar is facing a State Treasurer with majority support from County Chairs and State GOP Exec. Committee members.

    Lugar would be a poor fit and psychologically, I don't see him making the jump. He's always been a more loyal and more conservative Republican than Specter. I think he'd be more likely to read the writing on the wall and retire than switch.

    So I think both are highly unlikely to switch. Doesn't refute the premise of your post, though: the White House should indeed be making constant outreach efforts.

  4. One last point: 10% is about right for Nelson winning a GOP primary, if not too high. He's the Blanche Lincoln of 2012: red state blue dog with no chance of winning re-election.

  5. why not focus on recruiting strong Dem candidates instead?
    it seems like switching parties might have been easier in a different era, when back room deal making was actually in back rooms and not splashed across the Internet for average folks to get angry about.
    and, if Snowe and Lugar switched tomorrow, how would the Dems benefit all that much? they already have enough votes to stymie the GOP's agenda, and having two more Dem Senators won't help push their agenda through the Tea Party's House.
    I don't know if there is any strong Dem candidate avaliable in either state. but if Obama spends a lot of time trying to recruit Snowe and Lugar, it probably won't encourage potentially strong Dems to get into the races.

  6. And besides......DEMOCRATS DON'T WANT THESE PEOPLE! Bleh.....neither one of them is worth any time or effort on the part of dems to get them elected after a switch. There's no point in even worrying about Indiana but perhaps a good dem in Maine could do the trick.

  7. Wouldn't it be more likely that they would become unaffiliated (independent)? They are both more than popular enough to win a general election. They can site their disdain for (nameless) colleagues that have tacked far to the right to win renomination (looking at you John McCain) rather than represent the constituents that have always voted for them. By not switching parties, they don't look craven.
    The question would be whether they could raise enough money without party support. Snowe is in a really cheap market, so she would probably be fine. The northwest of Indiana would probably be problematic for Lugar, but he might not draw much support from there anyway.

  8. Wouldn't it be more likely that they would become unaffiliated (independent)?

    Snowe should seriously consider it, and if her husband weren't the state's last GOP governor I think she'd already have done it. If LePage is isolated both from the hard core teahadis and what's left of the institutional GOP -- and I think that's already happening -- she may do it yet.

    Unaffiliated/Independents do well in Maine -- they missed electing 2 of the last 3 governors by less than 10,000 votes.

  9. I voted for Specter in the primary, he would have easily beat Toomey(again), running a canidate of Snowe as an independent or Dem is the best chance to keep out a Tea Party nut. If the maine(pun intended) frontrunner for the Democrats is moderate enough then Snowe should consider switching parties. She got something like 71% of the vote on her last election.

  10. Wooing them for what? Even with their votes, the Democrats would be well short of cloture in the Senate for any major legislation. Indiana is now a purple state. It would be better to let Lugar go down in flames in the primary and then beat his Tea Party challenger with a Democrat in November of 2012. The same is even more true of Maine which is quite blue.

  11. Anonymous (the last one, not this one):would Snowe really be better off switching parties to compete with a moderate Dem (trying to out-moderate the moderate) rather than switching parties to compete with a liberal Dem (filling in the moderate vacuum)? I'm curious to see what Dr. B thinks, if he reads this


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