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May 19, 2014 11:29 AM Senate Overtime

By Ed Kilgore

Over the weekend The Upshot’s Nate Cohn looked at the possibility of the 2014 Senate campaign calendar going into overtime. It’s well known that Louisiana’s top-two “jungle” primary in which the first round occurs on the national general election day makes a runoff between Mary Landrieu and a Republican (probably Bill Cassidy) very likely if not a certainty. It would be held on December 6. It’s less well-remembered that Georgia has a majority-vote requirement for winning general elections. It became crucial in 1966, when the legislature had to choose the gubernatorial winner in lieu of a popular majority, and chose the famous segregationist Lester Maddox; in 1992, when a Senate runoff sent Republican Paul Coverdell to Washington; and in 2008, when a runoff was won by incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss, who’s retiring this year.

The other interesting thing about the Georgia general election runoff is that it would actually occur in 2015: January 6, to be exact, a month after the runoff for state and local offices. That’s because a federal judge in Georgia ruled that for federal elections the state needed to mail out ballots to oveseas and military voters at least 45 days before the actual runoff.

So there’s a decent chance the Senate ‘14 election calendar could have overtime sessions in both December and January. This is like extended unemployment insurance for campaign workers, consultants, and pundits, especially if Senate control is at stake. And if it’s not, as Cohn points out, that, too could have an impact on the results:

It’s possible to imagine a satisfied G.O.P. base losing its urgency after retaking the Senate, allowing Democrats to win with a strong turnout operation or resilient enthusiasm for popular, big-name Democratic candidates like Mary Landrieu or Michelle Nunn.

The Senate-control-cliffhanger scenario is more entertaining, of course. Not only would the runoff campaigns in Louisiana and Georgia become apocalyptic contests attracting thousands of campaign workers and tens of millions of fresh dollars; a vast number of calculations on Capitol Hill involving everything from 2015 agenda planning to hirings and firing of committee staff to choice office space allocation could potentially hang fire until January. It wouldn’t, of course, rival November/December 2000 in high-stakes drama, but would indeed liven things up in the staid Senate.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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