By Dave Lindorff
A week out from Election Day, with the polls looking pretty good for Barack Obama's election, especially in the Electoral College, focus is shifting to the Senate, where Democrats would need to pick up 10 seats in order to be able to both prevent Republican obstruction via filibuster, and send Connecticut's turncoat Sen. Joe Lieberman into well-deserved oblivion.
Getting to a 10-seat gain may look like long odds, but it occurs to me that this really doesn't matter. In fact, a President Obama could have fun picking off a couple of Republican senators from states that have Democratic governors, by naming them to posts in his administration, thereby simultaneously demonstrating a bi-partisan approach to governance while ensuring solid Democratic control of both houses of Congress. And he could do this without having to name out-of-synch conservatives to any position.
For example, Obama could invite either Sen. Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe, both Republican senators in Maine, to serve in some capacity in the cabinet--perhaps in the role of EPA Administrator or Secretary of the Interior, or as Secretary of Health and Welfare or of Education. Either one would be hard put to turn down that offer, and if accepted, Maine's Democratic governor, John Baldacci, would get to name a replacement, who would be a Democrat.
Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith is in a tight race for re-election in that liberal state. If he succeeds in returning to office, Obama could offer him a cabinet post, too--perhaps Secretary of Commerce. Smith has been campaigning almost as an ally of Obama in his effort to defeat Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, so he'd be an easy fit, and that would give Oregon's Democratic governor, Ted Kulongoski, the chance to name a Democratic replacement--probably Merkley. So everybody (except Senate Republicans) wins!
If still another Democratic Senate seat were needed to hit the magic number of 60 in the next Senate, Obama could find a job for Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, or even Pennsylvania's senior senator Arlen Specter.
Republicans, of course, would be livid if their numbers were pared in this way, but that would be fun to watch. All the named Republican senators above are relatively liberal and have suffered at the hands of their party's conservative majority. Most would probably jump at the chance of a cabinet post.
So if Obama wins next Tuesday, but Democrats fall short in the Senate, look for some entertainment in the coming few months.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net