Even if the Republicans win the Senate this year, it's still bad news, according to New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse. Hulse, whose reporting reliably supports Democratic wishful thinking, found a potential dark cloud for Republicans if they take over the Senate in 2014 in Tuesday's "Congressional Memo, "Mavericks Could Fracture a G.O.P. Senate Majority."
Hulse's favorite type of story invariably involves Democrats pressuring Republicans to give in on something related to policy or principle. In April 2010 he served as Bill Clinton's willing conduit to suggest Tea Party protesters could be lighting the fuse for another Oklahoma City bombing and has been convincingly accused of regurgitating Democratic talking points.
On Tuesday he unleashed his novel theory on how the Republicans could lose by winning the U.S. Senate.
Fear of losing a seat to a Democrat because of a Tea Party upset is one reason congressional Republicans are warily watching Tuesday’s Mississippi Senate runoff and other primary challenges to incumbents. But it is not the sole reason, and perhaps not the most important one, for Republicans this election cycle.
With control of the Senate within reach, Republican lawmakers and party operatives worry that the election of mavericks like Chris McDaniel, who is trying to unseat Senator Thad Cochran in Mississippi, could make a difficult governing environment almost impossible by expanding the ranks of Republican senators who are willing to defy the party leadership.
What good would a Republican majority be, they ask, if it is not a dependable governing majority? In fact, they suggest that a fractured majority could harm the party and its prospects by putting congressional Republicans nominally in charge but denying them real power to deliver on big issues. Trying to keep that from happening is one of the central motivations for Republican leaders who have been so determined to turn back Tea Party challengers this year.
Hulse at least accurately encapsulated the Tea Party philosophy.
To backers of the Tea Party hopefuls, it is the willingness of their candidates to break with the establishment that makes them so attractive. Conservative activists view many in the Republican hierarchy as timid, insufficiently conservative and complicit with Democrats and Washington lobbying interests. They yearn to shake up the power structure and believe the party could benefit.
Hulse admitted that whoever wins the Republican nomination will probably beat Democratic candidates come November in Mississippi, Kansas, and Tennessee. So he skipped ahead to the misery ahead for the GOP if they should have the apparent misfortune to actually take over the Senate.
Given the long-shot prospects of a Democratic victory, attention has shifted to the potential impact of a larger Tea Party caucus should Republicans capture the Senate.
Well, Hulse's attention, anyway.
In the minority, Republicans could break apart but retain the ability to confound Democrats. Still, divisions proved problematic even when Senate Republicans were in the minority as Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and others helped engineer a politically damaging government shutdown against the judgment of party leaders in both the House and the Senate.
Under almost any midterm election situation, Republicans are in position to take the Senate by only the narrowest of margins, ending up with just a one- or two-vote cushion even with a very successful election night. So Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky or another Republican leader will be in no position to absorb Republican defections and still produce 51 votes.
Yet it is hard to imagine that Republican senators courting the conservative Republican base ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries would not find reasons to quibble with the party line as a Republican majority tried to advance legislation -- even measures aimed at undermining President Obama and his administration.
Hulse concluded with how the GOP could come to regret its majority.
So depending on the results on Tuesday and in a few contests yet to come, Senate Republicans could find themselves in charge next year while struggling to reach consensus and remembering how life was easier in the minority.