Of all the storylines of the 2010 election, one may have the most lasting impact on the Democratic Party. It’s not the rise of conservative Hispanic candidates in Texas, though that story is profound. It’s not the rise of the Tea Party women all across the country, though that one may also reshape politics in both parties for years to come. The one story that may have the most profound impact on the Democrats is the forced retirement of several of their longest serving leaders. These Democratic leaders have been in power for decades. They are so entrenched that their names are synonymous with Washington itself. Their careers are littered with the carcasses of challengers who have failed to oust them, and they have produced or supported some of the most far-reaching legislation in American history (that’s not a compliment, by the way). In 2010, the old bulls are getting the scares of their careers, and several may be enjoying their last run. Their demise means more than the end of a generation of Democratic pols; it’s the decapitation of a political party. Here’s a run-down of where the Democrats’ old bulls stand — and may soon fall. That they may all be ending their careers with a Congress that couldn’t pass a budget or prevent a major tax hike in 2011 but did manage to work in time for Stephen Colbert’s faux testimony may be the perfect coda to their careers.
Sen. Chris Dodd. He’s already out, retired by his own involvement in the Countrywide sweetheart mortgage scandal. Dodd, a personal friend of the Kennedys and a liberal who has been in office since 1980, will be replaced by either Democrat Dick “I lied about serving in Vietnam and I don’t know how to create a job” Blumenthal, or WWE exec Linda McMahon, who is running on the GOP ticket. The polls show McMahon closing in on Blumenthal as she hammers him for being a career politician who has no idea how the U.S. economy works. In that, Blumenthal joins the ranks of career liberal Democrats from President Obama on down. Including former Senator Dodd himself.
Rep. John Dingell. This Michigan congressman has been in Congress since 1955, making him the longest actively serving and the third longest serving in U.S. history. This year, though, Obama’s negative coattails plus Michigan’s extreme economic and societal malaise, which includes double-digit unemployment and wild animals and fauna literally reclaiming parts of Detroit, are catching up with him. Currently, Dingell’s GOP opponent, Rob Steele, leads the race by four points. Steele is one of several Republican medical doctors running for Congress this year. Another, Dr. Donna Campbell, is looking to take down Rep. Lloyd Doggett in Texas.
Rep. Barney Frank. The architect of the economic collapse, and one of the Democrats’ loudest mouths in Washington, is Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. This year, Frank is dealing with the most serious challenger he has ever faced, and this challenger couldn’t be more unlike Frank if he tried. His name is Sean Bielat, and he’s a former Marine and iRobot executive who gave up that job to run against Frank. Where Frank is an unapologetic liberal career politician, Bielat is a no-nonsense conservative in his first foray as a candidate. Where Frank is openly gay with a related scandal in his past, Bielat is a sunny family man. With the race down to 10 points and momentum favoring Republicans everywhere, Bielat can follow the path that Sen. Scott Brown blazed and win.
Sen. Russ Feingold. Sen. Russ Feingold lent his name to the unconstitutional campaign finance law that has given rise to all the 527 and other political action groups that Democrats love to decry, when they’re not making full use of them via funding from the Open Society Institute (Soros) or the Tides Foundation (Teresa Heinz-Kerry and her husband, among others). Feingold is one of the few out and proud liberals in Washington, to the point that he’s even running as a supporter of ObamaCare. Wisconsin tilts toward Democrats most years, but 2010 isn’t most years and Feingold is running well behind his Tea Party-flavored GOP challenger, plastics manufacturer Ron Johnson.
Rep. Chet Edwards. Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas is one of the so-called Blue Dogs, those Democrats who claim to be fiscal conservatives while casting most of their votes with their party’s liberal leaders. In Edwards’ case, the Blue Dog moniker is particularly inappropriate. Not only was he considered as a running mate for Barack Obama in 2008, he was among the first Democrats to endorse him, and he is known to be very close with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and votes with her about 97% of the time. None of these facts denote moderate politics. His GOP challenger, retired energy executive Bill Flores, is running hard and according to polls is up anywhere from four points (Edwards’ internal poll) to 10 or as many as 19 points (Flores’ poll). Edwards’ district, TX-17, is the strongest Republican seat currently held by a Democrat. It looks like Flores will change that in November, picking off a target that Texas Republicans have been trying to defeat for years. Edwards has a cash on hand advantage but Flores is outpolling and outraising him. Of all the old bulls who haven’t already retired, Edwards is in the most danger.
Sen. Harry Reid. The biggest of the endangered old bulls is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid began his Senate career as a pro-life conservative to moderate Democrat, but during his years in party leadership he has tacked hard to the left. Reid today is known for prematurely declaring the war in Iraq “lost” and for saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is the Senate’s “hottest” member. Feminists, predictably, did not decry his obviously inappropriate remark. He’s a liberal, and therefore on their team. Reid has also become known for shepherding the Obama agenda through the Senate, putting him to the left of most Nevada voters and attaching him to an increasingly unpopular president, all while Nevada’s unemployment rates inches up. Tea Party GOP candidate Sharron Angle currently leads Reid by about four in the polls and is raising major money in the closing weeks. Reid’s defeat would be a stinging defeat for the Democrats and for the Obama administration.
Update: John Ransom reports that Harry Reid has been slapped with an ethics complaint for his pay-t0-play habit.
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