Everyone is expecting the GOP, riding a wave of economic discontent,
to do well in the November elections. And most observers agree that the
Tea Party movement is pulling the party significantly to the right. So
when the midterm elections bring in the 2010 "class" of new senators,
will the incoming ranks of strongly conservative Republicans overwhelm
the GOP members currently in the Senate? National Journal's Ronald
Brownstein predicts we will see "the most consistently, and even militantly, conservative class of new senators in at least the past half-century."
Unless Democrats can recover lost ground, it appears likely that the 2010 elections will produce the biggest crop of freshman Republican senators since the 11 who arrived in 1994, and possibly even the 16 who were part of Ronald Reagan's landslide in 1980. Across a wide range of issues, the potential GOP Senate class of 2010 leans right even when compared with those earlier groups -- some contenders hold positions on the far frontier of modern American politics. Next year could bring to Washington the most consistently, and even militantly, conservative class of new senators in at least the past half-century.
Brownstein says this reflects a changed political party--both in the base and, soon, in office--that will be more conservative than in a long, long time.
This new trend, he says, is as much about the party's "ideological consistency" as the particular views and policies. Because so many of the candidates--and, as a result, so many of the incoming congressmen--hold the same views, it will be much easier for them to dominate the party.
The dominance of conservative candidates in this year's crop of GOP Senate challengers reflects both short- and long-term trends. The deep trend is the ideological re-sorting of voters over the past half-century -- a dynamic that has left each party, but especially the GOP, with a more homogenous electoral coalition.