We’re destined to find out whether the Republican minority in the U.S. Senate can break the record number of filibusters they set in 2007 and 2008.
Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss dramatically improved on his November 4 showing to win the runoff Senate election in Georgia by at least 10 points. The result doomed Democratic hopes of a 60-seat majority in the upper chamber.
It’s disappointing but not too surprising. Chambliss would have won outright on November 4 if not for Georgia’s unusual state law requiring the winner to receive 50 percent of the vote. Furthermore, Chambliss would have received 50 percent if not for extremely high black turnout with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, which benefited Democratic Senate candidate Jim Martin. Also, a Libertarian candidate won enough votes from Georgia conservatives last month to keep Chambliss from winning a majority.
I appreciate the tremendous campaign that Martin ran, which made a race out of what was supposed to be a Kansas or Oklahoma-style romp for the incumbent in this very red state. Unfortunately for Martin, turnout was light today, especially among black voters any Georgia Democrat needs to have a chance of winning a statewide election.
Democrats still have a chance to gain a 59th seat in the Senate, depending on what happens this month in Minnesota. The state canvassing board will consider thousands of challenged ballots, and the margin between Al Franken and Norm Coleman appears to be very slim. The outcome may depend on whether more than 1,000 absentee ballots that were rejected because of clerical errors are counted. Many observers expect this contest to end up in court. It’s also possible that the U.S. Senate could get involved, as it did following an extremely close and disputed Senate race in New Hampshire in 1974.
Don’t despair, Democrats: we still have a decent number of Senate pickup opportunities in 2010. Just today, Florida Republican Mel Martinez announced that he does not plan to run for re-election.