President Obama’s biggest problem in the Senate is obviously its new Republican majority, but opposition from the left wing of the Democratic caucus appears to be growing too. Most prominently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has clashed with the White House on a key Treasury Department position and the CRomnibus spending package. But new budget committee ranking member Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is poised to break dramatically from traditional Democratic views on budgeting, from Obama to Clinton to Walter Mondale and beyond.
Interestingly, one of Karl Rove’s predictions for 2015 was that “populist anger will grow more on the left than on the right.”
And therein lies the dilemma for Democrats, who of late have turned the full fury and might of their political operation against the billionaire brothers from Kansas. Can they persuade voters to care about two private citizens whom regular people have barely heard of—especially when the country’s still underwhelming job market has many of those same people more worried about just getting by?
Benjy Sarlin with a great profile into the populist governor from Montana. Of course, before he can actually make a successful run, we’ll need to learn how to spell his name.
The left-leaning issues Schweitzer is most passionate about– single-payer health care, civil liberties, pulling troops out of Afghanistan – are areas where Obama has run into trouble with progressive activists. But he skews right on issues like expanding domestic oil and coal production and protecting gun rights, where Obama has held relatively strong with his base.
“The question that we have is, will it be the Hillary that leads the progressives?” he said. “Or is it the Hillary that says, ‘I’m already going to win the Democratic nomination, and so I can shift hard right on Day 1.’ We can’t afford any more hard right. We had eight years of George Bush. Now we’ve had five years of Obama, [who], I would argue, in many cases has been a corporatist.”
No doubt that sounds sweet to grassroots progressives who view Hillary with suspicion and have been disappointed by what they perceive as Obama’s move to the center. But it’s even harsher since it comes from the man who gave a rousing address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention that placed him in the national spotlight. Clearly Schweitzer is trying make enough noise to position himself as the voice of the progressive populist wing of the Democratic party.
Democrats are now favored to retain control of the Senate when the new Congress convenes in January, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, breaking a summer stalemate during which control of the chamber appeared about equally likely to go either way.
Thus, a realistic forecast of the Senate is that Republicans will pick up four or five seats — just enough to guarantee them the majority whether or not Barack Obama is re-elected and Vice President Biden controls the tie-breaking vote. But the forecast has a very large margin of error. Republicans could plausibly pick up 13 seats, or lose 2.