INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
by Steve Flowers
Sometimes when I observe national politics I am enthralled by the magnificent creation of our American government. When our forefathers founded our democracy it was grounded in British parliamentarian philosophy with a unique American blend, which of course omitted a monarchy. Now, 240 years later, it is a very representative democracy.
As our founders designed, we have three very independent and equally important branches of government, Executive, Judicial and Legislative. The Executive Branch is the most visible with the election of a U.S. President every four years. In earlier times, military men ascended to the presidency. George Washington was first and foremost a General. Our last military Chief Executive was Ike Eisenhower.
Our first President, George Washington, disdained political parties and warned that they were harmful to a functioning democracy. He had a lot of wisdom, as did many of our earlier presidents.
Indeed, political partisanship has created a good amount of discord and disharmony among the American electorate. Party alliance, along with a cumbersome and archaic relic of a system of selecting our president within the confines of the Electoral College, makes the presidential race completely undemocratic. Under the Electoral College system only about 10 to 12 of the 50 states matter in a presidential race. It is almost a one state presidential election with Florida having inordinate and almost omnipotent power.
Demographic changes within the country favor a Democrat being elected president. However, the way the minority populations are concentrated into urban enclaves, the U.S. House of Representatives favors the Republicans controlling that legislative chamber.
The U.S. Senate is now the ultimate balance of power. Therefore, the U.S. Senate races around the country are probably more important, as well as more in doubt, than the presidential race. The Republicans took control of the Senate a few years ago with an anti-Obama sentiment. A good many of those GOP Senators are up for reelection.
Republicans currently hold a 54-46 advantage in the Senate. In this current presidential election year Republicans are much more vulnerable to losing their majority simply because there are more GOP seats at risk. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election this year, 24 are held by Republicans and only 10 Democrats are up for election.
The second major problem for Republicans is that many of those GOP seats are in states that voted for Obama in 2008 or 2012 and are considered blue or Democratic leaning states. There are nine states that are the battlegrounds for control of the Senate. In order for Democrats to take the Senate they must hold onto all their seats and win five seats from the GOP.
In Illinois, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who won with only 48 percent of the vote in this blue state, is the most endangered GOP incumbent Senator. In Wisconsin first term Republican Sen. Ron Johnson faces former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold in a rematch of their 2010 race. Colorado, which is a swing state in this year’s presidential contest, will also be a crucial part of the senate puzzle. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett won reelection to a second term with just 48 percent of the vote, which makes him vulnerable to a GOP challenge. The retirement of veteran Democratic leader, Harry Reid, has left his Senate seat in play for each party in Nevada. This state is also a swing state in the presidential contest. GOP Senator Pat Toomey won a very close election in the blue state of Pennsylvania in 2010. This could be a Democratic pickup.
The two ultimate swing states in the presidential race will also be pivotal in control of the U.S. Senate. In Ohio, Republican Sen. Rob Portman will have a tough challenge from former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. This will be a key race. Sen. Marco Rubio originally abandoned his Florida Senate seat to run for President. However, in a last minute dramatic move in June, he backpedaled and decided to seek reelection to his Senate seat.
In Rubio’s statement he said, “Control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida.” National political experts tend to agree with him. Although he lost to Trump in his home state in the GOP presidential race earlier this year, polling indicates that Rubio is the only GOP candidate who can beat either of the two Democrats in the Sunshine State.
Florida could be the deciding factor in both the presidential contest as well as for control of the U.S. Senate.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.