Losing just one seat in November would throw the Senate back into a 50-50 split with Vice President Dick Cheney crawling out of hiding to cast the deciding vote. In other words, if the Dems lose one seat Nov. 5, the GOP will control Congress.
This is what makes the decision by New Jersey Sen. Robert G. Torricelli to drop out of his race for re-election a bit curious. Torricelli was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee earlier this year and has been dogged by his less-than-clean image throughout his race against a Republican whose campaign slogan is: “Vote for me because my name is not Robert Torricelli.”
Democrats, nonetheless, threw their support behind Torricelli because the importance of maintaining a slim majority outweighed moral behavior. This is the same slim majority that has placed the “old guard” back in control of key Senate committees. The King of Pork, Robert Byrd, has been on a spending spree as head of the Finance Committee and Patrick Leahy continues to carve up federal judicial nominees denying them a full Senate confirmation vote.
Only when Torricelli was well on his way to defeat did the Democrats pull the rug out from his re-election bid. Trailing by as much as 13 percentage points in most polls to a Republican in what is usually a haven for Democrats, Torricelli’s withdrawal brings numerous legal questions into the race. For one, it’s too late for Democrats to simply field a replacement candidate. Yet the Democrats are undeterred and have called in the lawyers to find a way around the law. Whether Democrats can place a substitute on the ballot will be decided in court.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to take the case and most expect no less than an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What Democrats fail to realize is that election laws are created as a uniform set of standards for all political parties to follow. Do you think the state Supreme Court would have agreed to listen to this case had Torricelli bowed out as a challenger from the Libertarian Party, instead as a Democratic incumbent?
If the Democrats are allowed to replace their candidate, then a sad precedent will be set paving the way for more shenanigans from both major parties in the future. Parties will routinely sack their Senate candidates every time they fall more than 10 points behind in the latest opinion poll. Hopefully the courts will prevent this from happening.
There is one good thing coming out of Torricelli’s decision to give up his re-election bid. Public opinion finally did what the Senate Ethics Committee refused to do.