Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 3, 2008

FEEL THE 'MOMENTUM'.... The results out of Georgia last night were disappointing for Democrats, but not surprising. In the runoff election, Republican incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss easily defeated Democrat Jim Martin, 57% to 43%. It was clearly the best news the Republican Party has had in quite some time.

But let's not get carried away.

Chambliss was introduced at his victory party Tuesday night by Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan as "Mr. 41," and he declared that Republicans "now have the momentum" after his victory.

Ah, yes, "the momentum." Republicans needed a runoff to keep a Senate seat they expected to win easily, in a reliably "red" state, and it's evidence of a party with the wind at its back. Of course it is.

Republicans have the smallest House minority in nearly two decades, and the smallest Senate minority in nearly three decades. They got trounced in the presidential race, and are now easily outnumbered in the nation's governorships. But they managed, with surprising difficulty, to hold on to a Senate seat in Georgia. Can't you just feel the momentum?

Look, any reasonable observer had to agree that Martin had a tough road to victory. Barack Obama did awfully well on Election Day, and he came up well short in Georgia, and that's with a massive turnout operation. Chambliss came just shy of wrapping this up in November, and was clearly the favorite going into the runoff. Republicans were worried enough about the race to send the entire party apparatus to Georgia to ensure victory, but that's largely because this race was considered a "firewall" contest for the GOP.

As for the other key angle here, Chambliss' win will necessarily keep Democrats from claiming a 60-seat majority. That said, as we've talked about before, the "magic number" isn't quite as magical as it's made out to be, and the Democratic majority is still poised to be awfully large -- the largest, in fact, since 1979.

With Georgia resolved, this leaves Minnesota's race as the only unsettled contest. At this point, it appears Al Franken may very well turn out to be the 59th member of the Democratic caucus.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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The turnout was only slightly more than half of the November election (2M+ vs 3.7M). A lost opportunity for people who want big change, but hardly a ringing endorsement for Chambliss.

Posted by: Danp on December 3, 2008 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

These two races are a strong argument for requiring the winner to get the majority of the votes cast using instant runoff voting (aka single transferrable vote).

Posted by: freelunch on December 3, 2008 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

AND the gopers are stopping those evil dems from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine!

The jayzus-humping forces have also prevented dems from mandating anal sex for five-year-olds and forcing churches to perform forced abortions during Sunday services.

Nothing can stop the repugs now!

Posted by: Yellow Dog on December 3, 2008 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Momentum? for what???

A Republican incumbent won in Georgia that really isn't much of a surprise (though the fact that it reached a run-off took the sheen off a bit).

Posted by: ET on December 3, 2008 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans have the smallest House minority in nearly two decades, and the smallest Senate minority in nearly three decades. They got trounced in the presidential race, and are now easily outnumbered in the nation's governorships. But they managed, with surprising difficulty, to hold on to a Senate seat in Georgia. Can't you just feel the momentum?

I agree that it's not much, but it will be enough that Harry Reid will feel the momentum and continue capitulating to Republican demands in the next Congress.

Posted by: SteveT on December 3, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

At this point, it appears Al Franken may very well turn out to be the 59th member of the Democratic caucus.

Nate Silver said Franken by 27 votes.

Not betting the farm on it but I'll be LOLing if he comes close. NS counts sheeple in his sleeple.

Posted by: MissMudd on December 3, 2008 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

With the GOP taking this Georgia seat, the Dems cannot possibly get 60 even with Lieberman in the fold. Which means there is no reason to keep him in the fold.

Posted by: Focus on December 3, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans may have momentum but they don't have Joementum, the most unstoppable force in the known universe. Or maybe its the most stoppable. I get confused. In any case, he's all ours and we just don't know how to quit him.

Posted by: brent on December 3, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

""You have delivered a message that a balance of government in Washington is necessary," a clearly relieved Chambliss told an Atlanta ballroom filled with several hundred supporters."

Yes, yes, the beating red heart of Republican country re-electing a Republican incumbent during a run-off election does send a "clear message" and constitutes a "momentum" changer.

Posted by: Palinoscopy on December 3, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

They'll use this mo' to defeat the Fairness Doctrine!

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 3, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I love that Saxby's acceptance speech included gems like:

When "they" try to take your guns, I'll be the first one to stand up and say no.

When "they" try to take away your right to choose your own doctor, I'll be there to defend you.

Um, dearest Saxby, who exactly is trying to do this????

Posted by: Homer on December 3, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I heard the black vote was very low. Is the moral of this election that African Americans will only go out and vote for AA politicians?

Posted by: jen f on December 3, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I think this says more about the quality of the opponent Jim Martin than the success of Chambliss
Should have run Max Cleland against him

Posted by: John R on December 3, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you Steve! I've been reading all this hand-wringing on other blogs about how this was an anti-60 seat backlash, etc. You boiled it down to its essence; Chambliss won an election in a state where a republican should win. Why are people so surprised?

Posted by: Farsider on December 3, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that the Republicans won a Senate seat in Georgia proves that this is, truly, a center-right nation.....

Posted by: Stefan on December 3, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

It shows that Georgia is still in the deep south, just like Alabama and Mississippi.

Posted by: the seal on December 3, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Republican philosophy: better living through low voter turnout.

Posted by: goethean on December 3, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with everything you said Steve. The problem is the MSN is already starting to spin this the way Chamblis and the Republicans want. The race proves that this is still a center-right country.

Posted by: thorin-1 on December 3, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

"... it will be enough that Harry Reid will feel the momentum and continue capitulating to Republican demands in the next Congress."

Yup. This 21st-century monument to flaccid incompetence wouldn't know what to do with a filibuster-proof majority anyhow. Reid's craven capitulation to Lieberman began during the summer, and was simply ratified by the caucus vote. If Reid were worth a damn as Majority Leader, Obama would never have been put in the position of having to be Mr. Magnanimous after the election. Just wait until the first time it's important to get all the Senate Dems on the same side... the message has already gone out that you can side openly with the GOP and Reid will do absolutely nothing except equivocate and enable.

Posted by: bluestatedon on December 3, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

If Reid were worth a damn as Majority Leader, Obama would never have been put in the position of having to be Mr. Magnanimous after the election.

To be fair, Obama really chose that position for himself and for his own reasons. He cold just as easily have stayed out of it and no one would have though anything about it. He felt it was to his advantage to save Lieberman and so he did. I am mystified as to the why but there is little doubt that this was really Obama's decision. Reid just chose to go along with it.

Posted by: Brent on December 3, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

evidence of a party with the wind at its back.

It's an idiot wind, every time a major GOP player opens his mouth.

Apologies to Minnesota's own Bob Dylan,
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 3, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Where's my G-suit; I'm blacking out!

Posted by: Mark on December 3, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but the Franken article was far too nuanced to say "he may well be" anything.

Posted by: SteveB on December 3, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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