One of the wonders of Washington is how moderate-to-liberal politicians get elected to the Senate from some of America’s reddest states. Take Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad from North Dakota.
George W. Bush won the state with 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2004. Last year, a tough year for Republicans, John McCain won with 53 percent, still a fairly comfortable margin. That’s a pretty red state to be electing senators who voted the liberal position 68 percent of the time (Dorgan) and nearly 65 percent of the time (Conrad) in 2008, according to the National Journal.
Conrad, especially, is a Houdini when it comes to some sleight of hand with the home folks. This week he was the decisive vote in a House-Senate conference to let the Senate pass major health-care legislation under “reconciliation” rules — with 51 votes instead of the 60 usually required on controversial bills. This, although Conrad says he’s opposed to using reconciliation that way. And, despite an image as a “skin-flint deficit hawk,” as a Wall Street Journal editorial described him, Conrad as Budget Committee chairman shepherded President Barack Obama’s $3.5 trillion spending plan to passage.
Then again, Conrad’s next election’s still more than a year away. Plenty of time to convince North Dakotans not to believe what they see.