It's playing out as many expected it would: the Republican Party is nominating more conservative candidates in races across the country, and the Senate will be a very different place in 2011.
Democrats may or may not have found campaign-season advantage in the GOP field's newfound conservatism, but the crop of Republican candidates who have emerged from primaries in 2010 have a distinct, undeniable Tea Party flavor.
The Senate is already losing a number of members who have displayed a willingness to work across the aisle. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, who worked with a liberal Democrat on health care legislation that never came to fruition, was ousted in a primary. So was Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, the Republican-turned-Democrat who bolted the GOP after DeMint's preferred candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), decided to run against him a second time (DeMint made his infamous "30 Republicans" comment in an interview with the Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney shortly after he told Specter he would be backing Toomey). And Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a moderate interested more in earmarks than social issues who has worked with Democrats on climate change legislation, trails a more conservative primary challenger with just a few thousand absentee votes to be counted.Other senators who have worked across the aisle are departing as well. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; George Voinovich, R-Ohio; Judd Gregg, R-N.H.; and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., all had reputations as amiable legislators willing to find a partner within the other party.
In some cases, the newcomers most likely to take over for that bipartisan cohort will come with a track record of reaching out to the other side. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., has worked with Democrats on a host of issues, while Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has gotten in trouble for voting against his party at times. Castle is favored to win a Senate seat, while Kirk is running neck-and-neck with his Democratic challenger in his home state.Add in former Rep. Rob Portman (R), running in Ohio, and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) -- neither of whom has a reputation as a bridge-burner -- and Democrats should have a number of new Republican senators with whom to form alliances.
An addendum to this discussion: the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, despised by conservatives but known in the Senate for collegiality and a willingness to work across party lines, has yielded Scott Brown, who delivered a key vote for Democrats on Wall Street reform, after extracting some changes to the bill.