Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Old Old Senate Update

As always, I'm interested in whether the Senate resumes getting gradually older, as it did up through the record 111th Senate, or if it gets somewhat younger, as it did in the current Congress.

Last week was not at all good for that, with the oldest of three Republicans capturing the nomination in Missouri, followed by Mazie Hirono capturing the Hawaii Democratic nomination. Both Hirono and Todd Akin in Missouri will be 65 in January. Of course, Ted Cruz over Dewhurst was huge in the other direction.

Today we have the last big age primary of the year, in Wisconsin, between Tommy Thompson (71), Mark Neumann (58), Jeff Fitzgerald (46), and Eric Hovde (48). I've already made a rare strong prediction that Thompson is toast, but that's not what the inconclusive polls really say, so we'll see. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic nominee, is 50 (all ages as of January). The primary is doubly important because Thompson is thought to be the best Republican candidate in November, while Baldwin would have an excellent chance of defeating next-oldest Neumann.

Connecticut is likely to be a pretty good election for the youngsters, with Democrat Chris Murphy (38) favored. Today's GOP primary will probably be won by Linda McMahon (64) over Chris Shays (67).

But with Murphy likely to win in November anyway, the real story today for those obsessed with how old the Senate is has to be the Wisconsin race. If Thompson wins, there will still be a possibility of ten new Senators who are 60 or older...it's really nine, because I can't really picture both McMahon and Shelly Berkely in Nevada both winning.


  1. I love this obsession, but I've always been a bit in the dark as to WHY you feel a younger Senate is so much more desirable. I understand that the institution is out of step with the rest of the country in most demographics, and newer, younger members would probably be a good thing, on balance.

    I browsed through and found this nugget:

    "I figure I should mention...I'm not against old legislators in general; in fact, I think it's very healthy for Congress to feature a good number of experienced, senior Members with long, productive careers. I just think the US right now has way, way, way too many oldsters, and not nearly enough in their 30s and 40s. Or for that matter their 20s."

    That was from a couple years ago, and as you've documented, the Senate has gotten a bit younger.

    But given the realities of today's party constraints--the iron-clad Republican lockstep, and the high liklihood that younger Dems, even though they entirely support their party's most liberal goals, will still have to moderate to win in many states--I wonder what tangible good, in policy terms, you think younger Senate members can effect in the chamber?

    1. It's mostly a "healthy for democracy" thing, rather than an "outcomes would differ" thing.

      But there's still a fair amount of stuff where individual Members of Congress matter, especially on the Senate side.

  2. If Baldwin wins, the Senate gets younger, more female, and gayer. That'd be a big win for demographic diversity in the Senate. For left-wing Democrats, it would also be a huge win to have a relatively liberal Senator in a D+2 state. I guess I'm rooting for anyone but Thompson since that would seem to give her a clearer path to victory.

    Won't a lot of Wisconsinites feel like they've voted enough in the last 6 months? Even some modestly engaged sometimes-primary voters might sit this one out, and I think as the electorate skews towards political junkies who listen to Rush and read RedState, it skews sharply away from Thompson. So Im going to agree with your prediction.


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