David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal views the Daschle-Thune Senate race in South Dakota as the pivotal Senate contest of the year. He notes the Democrats think they “can capture four Republican seats in Illinois, Alaska, Oklahoma and Colorado [while holding] their losses in the South to no more than two seats. That would give Democrats a 51-49 majority. [But] if Mr. Daschle loses, the whole equation collapses and Republicans will have dealt a crushing blow intended to intimidate Democrats in the next Congress.”
I think it is the final phrase of Rogers’ statement that explains most fundamentally the importance of the South Dakota race. I consider it unlikely that control of the Senate will turn on the outcome. The Democrats would be lucky indeed to win all four of their target states, and extraordinarily lucky to lose only two seats in the South. However, defeating Daschle would send a powerful signal to Democratic Senators in “red” states and maybe even swing states that they can no longer get away with their double game of constantly voting liberal in Washington while portraying themselves as moderates at home. Republicans don’t play that game much. The Republican Senators from Maine don’t consistently vote conservative, nor does Arlen Spector from Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum does, but he doesn’t try to hide his record. As Rogers says, the defeat of Daschle might “intimidate” Democrats into voting in a fashion that approximates the way they present themselves to their constituents.
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