It’s been a stunning couple of days in the United States Senate. In literally 24 hours, the GOP hopes of taking over that legislative body have been cut down considerably.
Yesterday, Mitch McConnell and pretty much everyone on the right side of the aisle were caught off guard by the announcement of the impending retirement of three term Maine Senator, Olympia Snowe. Not only did the East Coast centrist leave her party leaders out of the loop, she excoriated the partisan nature of today’s politics.
“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail,” Snowe said.
With apologies to Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Snowe and her fellow Maine Senator, Susan Collins, are perhaps the last two center-right republicans left in the Senate. Both voted for the stimulus and Snowe helped Health Care reform get out of committee even if she did not end up voting for the final bill.
Both she and Collins have felt marginalized by a party that has lurched further to the right as the Tea Party has exerted continually more influence over the GOP.
Democrats could barely contain their excitement over the possibility of flipping her seat. The Democratic Party in Maine is considered to have a deep bench. Factor in the Dems natural registration advantage in the state, along with the unpopularity of Tea Party Governor Lepage and President Obama being at the top of the ticket in November, it’s hard not to imagine a left aisle pick-up for Harry Reid and his tenuous majority.
But that wasn’t the only good news for Senate Democrats. Just today, former Nebraska Governor and two-term senator, Bob Kerrey, reversed his recent decision to pass on running for senate and stated he will indeed compete for a return to the office he held from 1989-2001.
While a Kerrey victory in the red state is hardly a given–it would even be fair to call him the underdog–the race will almost certainly be competitive. Senate Democrats had all but given up on the state after Ben Nelson decided to retire from the Senate after Nelson declared he would not seek another term. Now, not only do the Dems have a shot at holding the seat, they would trade in a decidedly unpopular right-leaning member of their caucus for a more moderate version should Kerrey pull through.
While there is many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip, the Democratic Party has to feel much better about the possibility of retaining their Senate majority come November, after the Snowe and Kerrey announcements.