The U.S. Senate as Post-Election Battleground

The message of the 2008 election for Republicans appears to be: the voters don't like you, but it could have been worse.  This was certainly true in the Senate. Some familiar Republicans fell -- Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina and John Sununu in New Hampshire -- victims of the wave of blue which delivered big wins for Barack Obama in their states. Open seats in Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado flipped from Republican to Democratic. Gordon Smith finally succumbed in Oregon.  But others hung on. GOP incumbents such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Maine's Susan Collins, and Mississippi's Roger Wicker survived.

Some are on the bubble. As of the time of this writing, Minnesota's Norm Coleman ended with less than a three hundred vote lead over Al Franken and now faces a recount. In Alaska, convicted felon Ted Stevens clings to a narrow lead (although he faces removal by his colleagues). Meanwhile, in Georgia Saxby Chambliss won his race but will go into a runoff, sure to be heavily funded on both sides, because he did not clear the 50% mark.

If some of this "bubble" group can hang on, Republicans, at least on some votes, will still have enough to sustain a filibuster, slowing the runaway train of President-elect Obama and the liberal duo of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Sure enough, the astute McConnell laid down some parameters less than 24 hours after Obama sealed his historic victory with a statement that read:

I congratulate President-elect Obama and will work with him on behalf of the American people. The Republican leadership stands ready to hear his ideas for implementing his campaign promises of cutting taxes, increasing energy security, reducing spending and easing the burden of an immense and growing national debt. On these, and other bipartisan issues, he will find cooperation in the Senate. We have an opportunity for significant accomplishments on behalf of the American people, and it is my hope and intent that we succeed in the years ahead.

I fully anticipate that President-elect Obama will select well-qualified nominees for the key, early cabinet secretary nominations. And if so, he can count on my support for timely consideration and assistance to ensure a smooth transition for our national, homeland and economic security posts. These times are too important not to move quickly together.

This suggests that McConnell is prepared to take on the new president if he strays from the essentially conservative items on McConnell's list.