A switch in time, how likely?

The emerging consensus (subject to change without notice) is that the Republicans will gain approximately eight Senate seats as a result of next week’s election. If this is a good estimate, then Republicans certainly could gain control of the Senate, but more likely will fall a seat or two short.
In the latter scenario, the question of the moment would become whether any Democrats might switch parties. The two most likely switchers are probably Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson.
To me, it seems unlikely that either would switch. If Lieberman were going to switch, I think he would have done so already; he’s been in his present “outcast” status since 2007. But the reality is that Lieberman is a liberal on virtually every issue of domestic policy. Thus, I assume he’s simply more comfortable (though not very comfortable) being a Dem.
Moreover, I don’t see a political incentive for Lieberman to switch. If he wants to be re-elected by “blue” Connecticut, his best bet is to run as an independent who caucuses as a Democrat.
Nelson seems like a better crossover prospect. But, given the new politics (i.e., Tea Party politics), I think switching would be a patently bad move for him. Having voted for Obamacare (and inspired the “Cornhusker Kickback”) and the stimulus, among other liberal legislation, what chance would Nelson have in 2012 in a Republican primary? I’d like to believe that, even pre-Tea Party, his chances would be minimal.
I suppose Nelson could caucus with the Republicans and then run an an independent, thereby bypassing the Republican primary. Caucusing as a Republican for two years might make him a viable third party candidate in center-right Nebraska. But Nelson might well regard this as threading the needle, and thus be more inclined to stick with the Dems in the hope that, by 2012, the environment will be more friendly.
If it isn’t, there’s always the option of retiring, assuming that’s not too unthinkable.


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