(Update: CNN now puts Merkley ahead by 10,000 votes with about 80% of precincts reporting. The Oregonian calls the race, although AP, burned once before in MN, holds off. That’s one down and three to go.)
I’m sure I’m not the only one that was extremely disappointed with the lackluster Senate results yesterday. For the time being it seems that the most likely result is a lower than expected 56 seats for the Democratic caucus. It’s a respectable majority, but keep in mind that the GOP used a record 104 filibusters in the 110th congress, and there’s no reason to believe their further marginalization in the 111th will make them more compliant. Sure, we’ll pick off enough few moderates to get things done, but not without serious watering down of most bills. Large scale reforms of the kind Obama was elected to implement like universal health care don’t stand a chance.
But all hope is not lost, as there are still four seats that are not officially decided. Two of them won’t be for a month at least. If Democrats somehow sweep all of them, we can still hope against hope to hit that magic number. Each seat seems to favor the republican to be sure, but we stand a reasonable chance of picking off at least one.
As of this morning convicted felon Ted Stevens looks to have pulled off an extremely improbable (Nate Silver’s final projection was 0%.) re-election by about 3,300 votes, but it turns out that thousands of ballots cast early haven’t been counted yet — turnout is impossibly low. I trust the Palin administration about as far as I can throw it, and after her prior abuses of power, I’m afraid this election might already have been stolen. I also don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that Palin would to appoint herself to the Senate after Stevens is kicked out. She couldn’t be much worse than old ‘tubes’, but I was really hoping to have seen the last of her until she announces her candidacy for 2012. (Update: thanks to chrisblask for pointing out this post from Mudflats with more info on the remaining votes. It also makes the claim that the AK Supreme court has ruled that the governor can’t appoint a replacement senator. So the question seems to be: will Begich pull it off or do we have a special election coming up?)
Associated Press called the Minnesota race for Republican Norm Coleman, then retracted the call after deciding that the razor thin 572-vote spread is small enough to be affected by the mandatory recount. Despite some early boasting by Minnesota officials of their ability to perform a very speedy recount, it now appears that it will take a month or more. Plenty of time to make sure there weren’t any irregularities, not to mention check into that questionable $75,000 contribution.
Georgia incumbent Saxby Chambliss dropped below 50% ever so slightly while the last votes were being counted, triggering a runoff election to take place in December. His Democratic opponent Jim Martin lost by about the number of votes third party candidate Allan Buckley received, although as a Libertarian, a majority of his votes will likely go to the Republican in the runoff. It will be tough to turn out GA voters in December without Obama’s substantial coattails, but we can expect democrats to pour massive resources into this race. We essentially have a second chance here in a race that we can now concentrate on exclusively, with the potential for president-elect Obama to play a role in the campaign. According to TPM, volunteers are already flocking south for what promises to be a spirited contest if nothing else.
Finally, Oregon is still up in the air, with turnout improbably low compared to 2004, a margin of about 7,000 when 30% of votes haven’t been counted yet, many of which are in heavily democratic precincts. This was another seat heavily leaning blue, so it’s surprising that Smith is the favorite at the moment.
The more seats we have the more we can get done. Americans may favor divided government, but Obama was elected in a landslide because Americans want real change, not a bunch of wishy-washy compromise bills that take weeks to hash out. This election is far from over. There’s not all that much we can do about the races, other than donate to the Democratic party to help it with potential court costs and GOTV ground operations in Georgia. A filibuster-proof majority is just within our reach, and our arms have been growing steadily longer in recent years. The 111th congress is poised to be one of the most progressive in years, but a 60 vote majority is our best opportunity to make truly historic sweeping changes.
Watch these races like your country depends on them.