Begich Gains in Alaska as More Votes Are Counted
The Anchorage Daily News starts its story today on the slow Senate election count with: "Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is in grave danger of losing re-election." When used in a medical context, "grave danger" means "will likely die today." In a political context it means "Mark Begich is about to become a U.S. senator." His election will bring the Democrats' total to 58, with Minnesota and Georgia still undecided.
On Friday, more absentee and provisional ballots were tallied including all the ballots from Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Wasilla), the core of Stevens support. At the start of the day Begich was ahead by 841 votes but that has now grown to 1022 votes. The remaining 24,000 votes are largely from Anchorage and Juneau, areas where Begich is well known and popular, but also from the much smaller Kenai Peninsula, where Stevens is popular. The remaining ballots will be counted Tuesday. The slow counting is a result of the careful checking of each provisional ballot to see it is indeed from an eligible voter. After the final vote is in, the losing lawyers will hitch up the dogs and mush on up to the state capital to challenge the results. A recount is likely in any event.
Probably many Republican senators are secretly breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of Stevens' losing. Few of them want a public trial of Stevens followed by a vote to expel him from the Senate. It draws too much attention to Republican corruption. Better that he just quietly lose to the popular Anchorage mayor. Begich doesn't seem to be worried. He is off on vacation at Disneyland with his wife and 6-year-old son.
Charlie Brown Closes the Gap in CA-04
In CA-04, state senator Tom McClintock (R) leads retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown (D), but his lead is diminishing. It is now 533 votes--down from 1248 yesterday. This gain by Brown was expected as yesterday's count was from Nevada County, a Democratic stronghold. The remaining 35,000 absentee and provisional ballots come from a mix of counties so the race is still a tossup. The seat is vacant due to the (forced) retirement of John Doolittle, who had close ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The 2012 Race Has Started
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow to start testing the presidential waters. Jindal is young and relatively inexperienced, but the election of Barack Obama shows that these are not necessarily handicaps. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine Jindal running on a platform of change. What does he want to change from? Or to? Ultimately, reelection campaigns are always about the incumbent. If Obama does well and is popular, he will be reelected, no matter who the Republican nominee is. If he does badly, the Republicans can say "We're more competent" although the memories of the Bush administration will still be moderately fresh.
Senators Leahy and Sanders Oppose Chairmanship for Lieberman
Two Democratic senators, Pat Leahy (R-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have publicly called for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to be stripped of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. The Democratic caucus will probably vote on how to handle this situation. Many Democrats are very angry with Lieberman for supporting John McCain, but they also need his vote on cloture motions, so it is a tough call for many of them.