Senate's balance of power is at stake

Lately, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's main argument for re-election to a fifth term has gone something like this:

"I have seniority. As minority floor leader, I have a place at the table when the decisions are made and the clout to bring home the bacon. Don't trade all of that away for a rookie."

OK, McConnell would never utter "minority" in front of "floor leader." That would remind him he didn't achieve his dream (and maybe never will) of becoming majority floor leader. But the rest of those words represent his basic pitch to Kentucky voters in recent weeks.

However, even if he survives Democrat Bruce Lunsford's challenge Tuesday, McConnell may well find his clout has been greatly diminished when he returns to Washington in January.

And his presence at the table, if he still has a place there, could be ignored when the serious discussions occur.

This election shapes up as a real downer for Republicans. Even before Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens got convicted on seven felony counts, Democrats were talking about winning a filibuster- and veto-proof majority in the Senate. The conviction of Stevens, a good buddy of McConnell's, improves that possibility.

To read the complete column, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.