Dems poised to sweep House, Senate

By MARTIN SIEFF  |  Nov. 3, 2008 at 11:10 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Democratic Sen. Barack Obama may win the U.S. presidency narrowly Tuesday, or he may win by a big margin. But either way -- and even if Republican contender Sen. John McCain pulls off an upset -- the outlook for Republicans in Congress is dire.

The Democrats are poised to make sweeping gains in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. They could get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, allowing them to launch a blizzard of reform legislation comparable only to the periods 1933-36 and 1965-66 in U.S. history.

The Democrats are challenging hard all across the nation, showing excellent prospects for carrying states in the presidential race and picking up House and Senate seats in states that have been Republican strongholds for a generation or longer.

Key bellwether states where the Dems are charging hard stretch all the way across the U.S. heartland that as recently as four years ago was a monolithic stronghold for President George W. Bush and the Republican majorities he still then enjoyed in both the House and the Senate.

Obama looks almost certain to make massive gains in the West and Southwest, long the strongest bastion of national conservative Republican free-market political forces. Polls indicate Obama has decisively won the battle for the Latino vote and, along with the defection of key white working-class voters, he appears poised to carry -- and chalk up House gains in -- New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. Even McCain's home state of Arizona, which already has an able and popular Democratic governor in Janet Napolitano, could see Dem gains.

The Democrats look certain to surge from 50 seats in the Senate to at least 57, and quite possibly 59. Their hopes of getting the magic 60 figure, which would give them a filibuster-proof power to approve any government or Supreme Court nominations they want, hinge on, of all things, a comedian -- Al Franken, who is posing an unexpectedly strong challenge to veteran incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in Minnesota.

If Franken can pull off a dark horse victory there, as Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., did two years ago, expect Democratic sweeps all across the board. We think he can.

Former Gov. Mark Warner also looks poised to carry Virginia for the Democrats in the Senate, giving them a lock on both Senate seats in the Old Dominion.

The Evans-Novak Political Report last week was frank about the dark outlook ahead for the GOP. "House Republicans face another slaughter. Democrats will make double-digit net gains, possibly pushing 30 seats. Many GOP incumbents are in danger, and Democrats are dominating in the open seats," it warned.

The ENPR concluded, "In the Senate, Democrats start with a gain of four seats, with another seven GOP-held seats in play. We predict 58 or 59 Senate Democrats in the next Congress, but 60 is within reach."

Democratic political strategists and pundits have been predicting a coming emerging long-term Dem majority for more than a decade. Even if there is a sweeping victory across the board this time, and even if a blizzard of legislation remakes the legal and political structure of America in the next two to four years, that is still far from inevitable.

If the expected huge Dem majorities in both houses of Congress deliver renewed prosperity and security, they could have a lock on power for a generation, as the Reagan Republicans, the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal Democrats and the Progressive Era Republicans did before them.

But if the Dem reform Congress fails to deliver on peace, security and prosperity, expect a new, probably populist, nationalist reaction, emphasizing protectionism and nationalism and secure borders to either take over the GOP or emerge as a formidable third party force by 2012.

The bottom line behind the Dem success is not the achievements of the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, which has consistently shown even lower approval ratings than President Bush.

Nor are the coming Democratic gains powered by widespread enthusiasm for a reform agenda. Even before McCain started losing crucial ground because of his complete inability to credibly address the huge financial crisis that destroyed the main investment banks on Wall Street, polls were pointing to strong further Democratic advances at GOP expense in both house of Congress. The Congresses controlled by Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay from 1998 to 2006 were already widely seen as no more than ATM machines for the GOP and K Street lobbyists.

Expect a transformation of Congress at least as big as 1994 or 1974 from the election results Tuesday -- probably even bigger. As Bob Dylan sang all those years ago, the times they are a-changin' -- again.

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