Nate Silver has taken a look across the great pollscape of American politics and has some good news for Democrats -- their odds of keeping control of the Senate have improved:
When we last took an overview of Senate races in December, Republicans appeared to be slight favorites to take control from Democrats, with a net gain of four to five seats representing the most likely outcome.
Since then, however, Republican fortunes have diminished somewhat because of problems with the quality of some candidates and key retirements. Although Republicans are most likely to gain seats on balance because Democrats have considerably more incumbents up for re-election, the question of whether the Republicans will win enough to gain control now appears to be closer to a tossup.
But there's a catch! It comes in the form of former Maine governor Angus King, who stepped up to run for the Senate seat of the departing Olympia Snowe, as an independent. King has massive in-state popularity, so much so that he became the instant frontrunner and chased the would-be contenders on the Democratic side out of the race. Now, Silver pitches King as the potential difference maker in the Senate:
Currently, we project the most likely outcome to be Republicans winning 50 seats, Democrats 49, and Mr. King the seat in Maine. Under those circumstances, the Democrats would retain control of the Senate if Mr. King caucused with them and President Obama won re-election, making Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. the tiebreaking vote. Otherwise, Republicans would control the chamber.
The problem of course, is that King seems to be a bit unclear about who he'd caucus with, and how this whole "caucusing with people" thing works. A few weeks ago, Jonathan Weisman attempted to divine where King stood, politically, and it's pretty clear that he's basically a left-leaning centrist:
Which side Mr. King leans toward is not so obscure. He thinks the health care law was not ambitious enough. He would have voted for the stimulus and has no qualms about benefiting from it.
He will vote for Mr. Obama’s re-election, and he offers serious doubts about Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee.
He opposes the prescription for Medicare in the House Republicans’ budget as 'a recipe for a tremendous shift to the elderly of their health care costs.' And after a long conversation with Erskine B. Bowles, a chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, he said he was 'dating' -- but not marrying -- the deficit-reduction plan put forward by Mr. Bowles and former Senator Alan K. Simpson, a Republican. Taming the deficit without revenue increases 'isn’t realistic,' he said.
Of course, as Weisman reports, King also said he "might have voted against the Wall Street regulatory overhaul," which is the only place he really gets close to the Senate GOP caucus.
Addressing this complicated matter of which side to take, King has offered a high-toned paean to individualism, saying: "We could send down a combination of Pericles and Thomas Jefferson, and if that person’s reporting to Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell, he’s going to be ineffective. Every vote is a test vote. Every vote is party loyalty. We’re sunk if it keeps up this way."
Of course, as Alex Pareene points out: "'Caucusing' with a party in the Senate does not mean 'always voting in lockstep with.' Caucusing with the Democrats does not force you take take marching orders from Harry Reid, as anyone who has paid attention to the news over the last five years or so should know by now. But not caucusing with anyone means you don’t get any committee assignments, or any say over legislative priorities."
In the end, I think David Dayen put it well when he said, "Angus King is about to become the most insufferable man in America." Have fun wooing this guy, everybody.
Bring Me The Heads Of All The Social Media Gurus!: Patrick Ruffini, who knows the intersection of politics and technology like the back of his hand, takes a preliminary look at Team Obama Re-Elect's "Dashboard," and advises: "Want to Win in 2012? Hire Engineers and Data Scientists, Not Social Media Experts." This is 100 percent correct. [The Playbook @ EngageDC]
Jon Huntsman's Daughters Are Still Trying To Make 'Jon Huntsman' Happen: Should Jon Huntsman run for Mayor of New York City? Should Jon Huntsman start a strawberry farm? Should Jon Huntsman count how many angels can dance on the head of Jon Huntsman? Can Jon Huntsman catch hold of Emptiness? If a tree falls on Jon Huntsman and there is no one around to hear it, does the tree say, "Well, at least my death had a purpose?" We may never know the answers to these questions. [Salon]
Veep Vetter Comes Clean: A.B. Culvahouse has done everything short of searching the body cavities of vice presidential prospects. Of Sarah Palin, Culvahouse says, "I summed up her selection as 'high risk, high reward.' I stand by that advice." [Wall Street Journal]
What, This Again? And we can dial back the "It's been [X] days since someone had the bright idea that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden should swap jobs" sign back to zero. [Chicago Sun-Times]
This Day In Repeal And Replacishness: Jonathan Bernstein has the skinny on the GOP's ever-continuing evolution of what they plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with. The options include: 1) a lot of what's in the Affordable Care Act anyway, except the stuff that holds down the deficit, 2) pretending to want to do that, and 3) replacing it with the Paul Ryan "Hunger Games" scenario. Regardless, they'll keep on straight up leading Politico reporters on, for funsies! [The Plum Line @ WaPo]
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