Senate Update (Bumped and Updated)
Update #2: I’m tired of waiting for the Fulton County vote. We now have 70% of the ballots in and Chambliss still is over 60% which means Martin now would need over 75% of remaining ballots. He didn’t even manage that in DeKalb County (Obama barely managed it himself).
Race over: Chambliss wins.
I will comment on the Minnesota race later
Update: With about 66% of the votes tallied, Chambliss leads by a margin of 60.8%-39.2%. This means that for Martin to win he’d need to take nearly 70% of the remaining vote.
While this is unlikely, Fulton County (Atlanta) has barely reported and DeKalb County (which is giving him close to 70%) is only about half-way counted. So I’m erring on the side of caution and not calling the race quite yet.
But it would take a major surge for Martin to win this one (in fact I am almost ready to call it now).
As you know, the new Senate will have at least 56 Democrats, 40 Republicans and 2 Democratic-leaning Independents. But two races remain up in the air, though possibly not for much longer.
One contest that will be decided this week is the contest in the state of Georgia. Incumbent Saxby Chambliss (R) actually won the race on Election Day, finishing 3 points ahead of Jim Martin (D). But because he did not get 50% of the vote the state law requires a runoff.
Georgia has early voting and, during the lead-up to the last Election Day, the results were seen as a sign that the contest would be very close. According to the excellent analysis at Frontloading HQ the early voting in the runoff is seen as favoring Chambliss. Voting in the key demographics for Martin (blacks, younger voters and women) seem to be down from the last round.
Of course it is possible that voters could be waiting for Election Day to show up, but balloting on a cold December Tuesday is not likely to attract turnout from the ‘new voter’ that Obama and Martin were helped by on Election Day.
So my guess is that, while it may be close, Chambliss is very likely to win this one for the GOP, bringing them to 41 seats.
If Chambliss does win, then that may also impact the second outstanding Senate race in Minnesota, between incumbent Norm Coleman (R) and challenger Al Franken (D). With the recount nearly complete, it looks like Coleman will end up with the same lead he had in the first round of counting (about 250-300 votes).
There are a number of challenged ballots outstanding (about 5,000) but most analysts say that it is very unlikely that Franken will be able to overtake Coleman. Minnesota has a very good election system and most recounts do not result in significant shifts in votes.
So, if the counting goes the way most experts seem to think it will, then the only way Franken can prevail is if he can expand the number of ballots being counted. But this is also a tough route for the Democrat. When a recount occurs, then it is exactly that, a recount. You take the ballots that were tallied in the original count and recheck them. You do not add ballots that were rejected in the first count.
He could take things to court or to a challenge in the Senate, but my gut says that the Senate would be more likely to seat Coleman if he gets certified as the winner. For one thing they would be faced with a Republican who was certified as the winner by a Democrat. For another, they don’t like to overturn certifications in general.
And perhaps most importantly, Obama has shown signs he wants to at least project a bipartisan image in Washington for the start of his term. Seating Franken would not help that image nor would having Franken in the Senate for the next six years (he’s not exactly a bipartisan kind of guy).
So while things remain in flux, it looks like the GOP will hold these two seats.
Of course, given the way the past few elections have gone, I’ve learned never to say never so we shall see what tomorrow brings.