Ted Stevens Conviction Changes GOP Prospects

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WASHINGTON - The Ted Stevens guilty verdict can be viewed through a variety of prisms.

These include its impact on the Democrats' drive for a filibuster-proof Senate (a 60-seat majority), the sullying mark of corruption on the Republican brand as a whole, and potential shifts to the GOP leadership pecking order.

First, it seems pretty unlikely Alaska voters will send a convicted Ted Stevens back to Capitol Hill. This means some true lions of the Senate are going to be clearing out this election cycle.

Ted Stevens has been in the Senate for all or part of five decades; retiring Republicans Pete Domenici and John Warner have been in the upper chamber for all or part of four. Trent Lott resigned late last year, but should also be considered part of this "leaving lions" list.

Add the possible departures of Elizabeth Dole (a Dole has been in the Senate for all or part of the past five decades) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — and you’ve got a somewhat unrecognizable upper chamber.

The Senate Republicans are finding themselves in a similar spot to Senate Democrats in 1980. That’s when a handful of big names lost in a GOP landslide.

These vacancies mean that there will be a leadership vacuum in the Senate, with a lot of younger players vying for dominance. This power struggle will be one of the more interesting post-election stories to follow — particularly if McConnell loses in November.

As new Republican leaders emerge, keep your eye on Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and perhaps, John Thune of South Dakota.

The Stevens' verdict could also effect the party’s overall image.

These are some of those infamous "tea leaves" that many in the media force themselves to read. It's just another link in the negative political news chain that's weighing down the GOP ahead of November 4th.

Perhaps some will see the sweeping out of a pork-loving Senator like Stevens as a good thing in the long term. But, don’t forgot, he’s the poster child for big government Republicanism — the very same phenomenon that caused the party to lose its "less government" conservative way over the past decade.