Nightmare on Constitution Avenue

‘Election Day’ won’t end until Democrats have 60.

With news that Democratic candidate Mark Begich has taken the lead from incumbent GOP Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska’s Senate race, Republicans are beginning to visualize a nightmare scenario in which Democrats actually reach the goal of 60 Senate seats that would allow them to stop any GOP filibuster.

[Saxby Chambliss]

Saxby Chambliss

The scenario runs like this:

First, Republicans lose the Alaska seat. At least 15,000 provisional ballots and an estimated 20,000 mailed absentee ballots remain to be counted. Ominously for Republicans, Mr. Begich now holds an 814-vote lead after some 50,000 absentee ballots were counted this week. The race could remain undecided for some time. Alaska will continue to accept absentee ballots through Nov. 19 if they were postmarked by Election Day.

Democrats also have an excellent opportunity to pick up a Georgia Senate seat if President-elect Obama decides it’s vital for his party to win the December 2 runoff between GOP incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin. With a snap of Mr. Obama’s fingers, money and resources from Team Obama’s vaunted organization would pour in. Dispirited Republicans might well stay home, allowing Democrats to capture the seat much as Republicans took a Georgia Senate seat in a similar 1992 runoff. “We’re a long way away from having the resources we need to match the Democrats,” Senator Chambliss told reporters.

Then there’s Minnesota, where GOP Senator Norm Coleman’s lead over comedian Al Franken has just dwindled to 206 votes even before a statewide recount begins next week. Republicans fear that Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, an ally of the activist group ACORN, will attempt to put his thumb on the scale during the process.

If bad breaks occur in all of these races, Democrats will win the important strategic and psychological prize of 60 seats, and Republicans will have lost 15 Senate seats in just two election cycles — a modern record.

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