It may feel like it's a little early to start talking about the 2010 elections--after all, I complained loudly about how the 2008 presidential race started before the polls closed on the 2006 midterm elections--but we live in the world of the perpetual campaign now, and so no time like the present to start thinking about taking on freshman Senator Mel Martinez in 2008.
Now it's true that he hasn't officially said he's going to run for re-election, but if we wait until he announces to get ourselves in gear, we won't have a chance at beating him or whoever takes his place on the ballot. This piece in the Miami Herald points out that he may be vulnerable--in fact, some Democrats are saying right now that Florida might be the best pickup opportunity in the Senate in 2010. That may be true, but I don't want to get too excited about this just yet, for a few reasons.
1. We won't have Republicans to kick around in 2010. In other words, Democrats own the government now, and we're in tough times, so if things don't improve swiftly--and there's plenty of reason to believe they won't, given the depth and breadth of the problems we face as a nation--Democrats will be on the defensive in 2010, not the offensive, which we have been for the last two cycles.
2. Florida's not really blue just yet. In some ways, it seems that Obama won Florida in spite of the state party, not because of it. Our pickups in the rest of the state were meager, to say the least. We didn't knock out any of the Miami 3, and we only netted one seat in the House, winning FL-8 and 24, and losing 16. And on the state level, we netted one seat in the House and none in the Senate (from what I can find right now--I could be wrong). The presidential win certainly lifted Democratic party spirits and resulted in a lot of new voters, but it didn't change the immediate landscape much.
3. Let's assume that the Democrats sweep the three Senate seats still left to be decided--and that's highly unlikely. Begich looks to be winning in Alaska, but the Minnesota recount is anyone's guess and the Georgia special election seems very unlikely at this point. That puts them at 60 votes (counting Lieberman). Martinez will be able to make a very convincing argument that a Democratic win will give President Obama too much power, and again, if the economy hasn't improved significantly by then, that argument will be persuasive to a state that's still more red than blue.
Now, we've got some good people in Congress, and in the state legislature, and they're relatively young, too, so our bench is deep, but we have lots of work on the local level to do between now and 2010, regardless of how unpopular Martinez is (assuming he runs). We have to run a good candidate and convince Floridians that our ideas are better for the greater number, and last but not least, we have to outwork the Republicans. We have some party building to do, so let's get after it.