For a Republican in Massachusetts, Brown is in surprisingly solid shape for reelection, even as he anticipates a serious challenge. In a sign of how mainstream Brown’s image is, a new Public Policy Polling survey found that 53 percent of Massachusetts voters found his views “about right”—including 35 percent of Democrats. Brown’s backing of the DADT repeal will only serve to improve those numbers.
Looking further down the road, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., took a big step toward solidifying his centrist credentials in the Senate by voting for repeal. He’s not up for reelection until 2016; but if this vote is any indication, he will continue to act like the fiscally conservative, socially moderate member of Congress that he did to great success in the House.
Manchin, Lugar: Looking Lame
Several senators suffered a hit to their political prospects over their votes in the lame-duck session. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., went AWOL, skipping last Saturday’s votes in order to attend a Christmas party back home. Hardly a profile in courage: If he’d shown up to vote against the bills, he’d be in fine political shape—even if he wouldn’t be the most popular senator among his Democratic colleagues. But now we will be hearing GOP attacks of “No-Show Joe” during his reelection campaign in 2012.
And Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., continues to mystify, taking two votes that showed little concern for his reelection. He voted for the Dream Act, which had little chance of passing, in a state where sentiment against illegal immigration is high and the Hispanic vote total is low. (In 2006, Indiana’s three freshman Democrats won running on a hard-line positioning against illegal immigration.) But he voted against the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell,” which looks to have broader support even in a Republican-leaning state. Lugar is likely to face a serious primary threat, and looks like the second-most endangered Republican up for reelection (behind Nevada’s Sen. John Ensign).
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, didn’t help his cause either by missing the weekend’s votes to attend a grandson’s graduation—even though he was an original cosponsor of the Dream Act. Hatch faces the likelihood of being challenged for the nomination by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Running away from his record doesn’t appear to be a ticket to winning in a state where party activists hold great sway.
All in all, this was one of the most consequential weeks in Washington since the passage of health care reform—and one with major political ramifications. Obama paved the path to a comeback, Lieberman looks like he resuscitated his reelection hopes, and Brown continues to defy the odds, while at least three senators may have caused serious damage to their political futures. Not bad for just a weekend’s work.