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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Post-Confirmation State Landscape

There’s an interesting feature up on the American Prospect’s site right now surveying the political landscape in states where Obama cabinet appointees have given up major officies. The premise of the piece, co-written by Dana Goldstein, Adam Serwer and Tim Fernholz is that Obama has “loosened up the politics of several swing states, putting the Democratic Party on shakier footing and creating the space where the next Republican opposition could take root.”
It’s a plausible argument, but not self-evidently right. Janet Napolitano of AZ and Kathleen Sebelius of KS were term-limited, so their early departures didn’t deny Democrats incumbent gubernatorial candidates in 2010. Yes, Napolitano’s resignation turned AZ over to Republican Jan Brewer, which is bad for Democrats in the short run; but given the current fiscal condition of the state, it may turn out to be a good thing that Republicans will go into 2010 controlling both the legislature and the Governor’s Office. The Bennett appointment to Ken Salazar’s Senate seat has caused some internal unhappiness among CO Democrats, but not enough to give Republican any clear advantage. And David Paterson’s political meltdown in NY isn’t primarily attributable to the controversy over his replacement of Hillary Clinton with Kirstin Gillibrand. Finally, it’s suggested that Tom Vilsack’s appointment as Secretary of Agriculture denied Democrats the one candidate who could have beaten (or forced into retirement) Chuck Grassley in 2010. But it’s not at all clear that Vilsack would have run for the Senate if he had remained in Iowa.
All this speculation is fun and has some analytical value, but the reality is that it’s hard to anticipate the national and state political landscape as it may exist in 2010. If you had to guess, you’d figure that incumbency may not be much of an asset this time around, And the notable shrinkage of the GOP’s electoral base nationally has implications in many of the red-to-purple states where the new Obama Cabinet Democrats have done so well. So at this point, whatever they can do to help Barack Obama become an effective president may well be worth the political questions they have left behind.

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