Wednesday, November 19, 2008

US Senate update: Stevens defeated in AK, recount in MN, early voting begins in GA run-off

Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens lost his bid for reelection yesterday, giving Democrats 56 seats in the Upper Chamber. By making nice with Joe Lieberman yesterday, Senate Democrats have 58 members in their caucus (Lieberman and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders meet as Democrats).

All eyes now focus on two undetermined Senate races: Minnesota incumbent Norm Coleman (R) vs. liberal talk radio host/comedian (I'm being generous in calling him that) Al Franken (aka Stuart Smalley) and Georgia incumbent Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) vs. State Assemblyman Jim Martin.

The initial vote count in Minnesota ended yesterday with Coleman ahead by 215 votes out of 2.9 million votes cast. By state statute, a recount is automatically conducted on races determined by less than one-half of one percent. The recount is not expected to be completed until mid December.

In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss won, but because there was a third-party candidate in the general election, he did not get the state-mandated 50% majority needed to be awarded the seat. A run-off election between the top two candidates is being held. Early voting has already begun and Obama has dedicated his vast campaign money and political machinery to help the Democrat win the seat.

The Democrat hopes of gaining a 60-vote majority (the number necessary to override filibusters) hinge on winning both seats. In my opinion, these two seats will determine the ideological tone of the next two years. If Dems get both, it increases the viability of hard-left legislation like the Fairness (censorship) Doctrine or redistributive tax policy. All Republicans have to do is win one.

My prediction is that Chambliss will soundly win in Georgia. I'm cautiously optimistic that the re-count in Minnesota will widen Coleman's lead, however I fear this may be a race decided in the courts. We've already seen bitter debate over ballot eligibility and surprise votes appearing in the trunks of cars.

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