A very close or tied US Senate: Any potential party flippers

After the 2014 elections, if the Senate is tied 50-50( with the 2 Independents caucusing with Democrats), the Democrats will still maintain the majority since Biden will be the tie breaking vote. Would there be any potential party flippers to toss power over to the Republicans? I can’t really think of anyone, especially knowing that Obama would still have a veto, and the 2016 Senate elections may not favor the Republicans, with all the Senators swept in from the 2010 Republican ass kicking election up for reelection.

A more interesting question might be if the Republicans eek out a 51-49 win. Are there Republicans who might flip to either Independent or Democrat to change the majority party in the US Senate.

I’m thinking a likely candidate might be Sen Mark Kirk from Illinois. He narrowly won in the 2010 Republican slaughter, he’s from heavily blue Illinois, his positions aren’t far right, and he could potentially face a difficult reelection campaign in 2016.

The last time this happened was in 2001 when Sen Jim Jeffords left the Republicans and flipped to Independent. Of course “9/11 Changed Everything” and the Democrats didn’t do much with their slim majority and lost the majority again in the 2002 elections.

Susan Collins of Maine, perhaps. She’s expressed severe exasperation with what her party has been making her do lately.

Mark Kirk is solidly right-wing except on a few social (non)-issues such as gun control and abortion. The same with Collins-no Senator who voted against such a moderate health care reform bill as the Affordable Care Act can reasonably be classified as a “centrist”.

If anything, Mark Pryor may switch parties if he survives 2014, although I’d rather see him be an actual Southern Populist.

Party flippers happen for the side with the momentum. You’re not going to see someone flip Democrat if the GOP wins five Senate seats. Jeffords flipped after Democrats made gains in 2000 which brought them to within striking distance. Jeffords gave them the last seat they needed.

I’d be more worried about Jon Manchin if I were you.

I don’t know that party switching has anything to do with momentum. I’d say it has to do with the individual’s priorities and chances to get re-elected. Arlen Specter, for instance, was facing a primary from the right that he was probably going to lose.

That is another circumstance. But party flippers that change control of a chamber rarely, if ever, have gone against the party that won seats in the last election. People switch to join the winning party, not the losing party.

Didn’t Specter flip just to give the Dems the Senate a filibuster proof majority, temporarily? He probably knew from previous caucus meetings that the Republicans would use the filibuster to “Make Obama a One Term President.”

If he did, he sure timed it badly. The Dems opened 2009 with 58 Senators, but Ted Kennedy’s health took him out of action after March. Arlen’s switch in late April brought the Dem strength back up to 58, then when Franken’s election was finally confirmed, and he was finally sworn in on July 7, the Dems were up to 59. Finally, the Dems moved up to 60 on September 24, when Paul Kirk was sworn in as Teddy’s temporary successor. (That lasted until January 19, 2010, of course. Some Republicans love to go on about how Obama had this filibuster-proof majority for a couple of years. Not exactly.)

But wasn’t Kennedy still technically a Senator until his death? His death, and the rule about an election, lost that seat temporarily to Scott Brown. Kennedy, plus Franken, plus Specter, would equal 60.

Kennedy was near death, Specter wasn’t getting younger and 2010 was already shaping up to be a brutal election.

Specter switched because it seemed clear to him that Pat Toomey, running to his right, would beat him in the GOP primary (I’m pretty sure that in PA primaries are limited to registered party members). As the GOP shifted right, the gap between his policies and the republican worldview became ever larger, and though he might well have beaten Toomey in a general election he had little chance in a primary.

So he switched, but was primaries by joe Sestak, a much more liberal candidate, and given the increasing liberalism of the Dems in PA Specter lost that one anyway. Despite my own personal stumping for Sestak in the general election (ahem) Toomey won. Poor Arlen was too moderate for everyone. But it was primarily self interest that led to the switch.

True, but you need 60 Senators present and voting for cloture to break a filibuster. So with respect to breaking filibusters, one subtracts Kennedy when he becomes too ill to come to the Senate and vote.

True, but not immediately and directly. There was that period of not quite four months when Paul Kirk was Ted Kennedy’s interim replacement, before Scott Brown got elected.

There was just never a time when Kennedy and Franken were voting in the Senate at the same time.