Democrats dream of filibuster-proof majority in Senate

Kansas City StarOctober 14, 2008 

Democrats, growing more confident of winning back the White House, are starting to whisper about another dream.

Sixty Senate votes — a filibuster-proof majority.

“The wind is more strongly at our back than ever before,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters last week. “The message of economic change is just succeeding everywhere.”

Why such optimism?

The McCain-Palin ticket appears to have little pull for struggling Republican candidates. Anger at the Bush White House is at record levels. And the math gives Democrats a decided advantage — they’re defending just 12 Senate seats, while Republicans are trying to hold on to 23. (Two states, Wyoming and Mississippi, hold two Senate elections this year.)

“The outlook in Senate races continues to deteriorate for Republicans,” wrote influential political analyst Stuart Rothenberg in Roll Call last week. “I now can’t rule out 60 (Democratic) seats for this November.”

Democrats hold 51 Senate votes. (Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, elected as Independents, vote with the Democrats.)

To win a filibuster-proof majority, they must hold all 12 Democratic incumbent seats up this year, then add nine more.

The first task appears easier. Only Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey appear in any trouble at all, and recent polls suggest they have opened bigger leads against Republican opponents. The 10 other Democratic incumbents are considered safe.

Democrats also appear certain to pick up two seats — one in Virginia, the other in New Mexico — now held by retiring Republicans.

That leaves seven seats needed to reach the 60-vote threshold.

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