My estimate that the Democrats will end up with 58 Senate seats doesn’t look bad right now. As I understand it, the Dems have picked up five seats so far — New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Colorado. That brings them to 56. They have a good shot in Alaska and Oregon, which would get them to 58. In Minnesota, the Coleman-Franken race is just about dead even. I saw Karl Rove say the Coleman camp is concerned but John (our man on the scene) thinks Norm will prevail.
The bottom line is that the Dems could get to 59 seats, but 60 seems just about out of the question. As I’ve written, though, with 58 seats the Democrats will be able to do plenty of damage.
I’ve heard suggestions that Barack Obama is sweeping in new Democratic Senators. But it looks to me like nearly all of the new Senate Dems will owe little if anything to Obama. In most instances, these new Senators will have run as well or better than Obama in their state. In the South where heightened black turnout might have helped Democratic Senate candidates, the Dems picked up only Virginia and North Carolina. Mark Warner certainly didn’t need Obama, but perhaps Obama had an impact in North Carolina.
In Oregon, the Democrat is in a tight battle with incumbent Gordon Smith, so if he prevails he may feel he owes his victory to Obama. I’m not sufficiently familiar with that race to opine more definitively. In Alaska, a Democratic victory would be down to Sen. Stevens’ legal problems. Obama plainly has no coattails in that State, and the new Senator (if any) would be well-advised to adopt a reasonably independent posure.
The only other new Senator I can think of who might owe something to Obama is Al Franken, if he wins. In that event, though, Franken might owe more to the former Jesse Ventura campaign manager who ran as an third-party candidate.
So I doubt that Obama will hold any special sway with the new Senators as a group. But that’s not to deny he will be able to count on their support in the most cases in which he needs it.
JOHN adds: I’m getting nervous about Coleman’s race. His lead stands at 18,000 with 79% of precincts reporting. The problem lies in where there are votes still to be counted. Most of Norm’s best areas are in the books. The two places where there are still lots of votes outstanding are Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis) and St. Louis County (home of Duluth). They could easily put Franken over the top. Two-thirds of Hennepin County’s precincts have reported, and Franken leads there by 63,000 votes. 38 percent of St. Louis County’s precincts have reported, and Franken leads by 8,000. If those percentages were to hold, Franken would win easily; there just aren’t enough votes left in Coleman’s strong counties to balance them out.
What I don’t know is which precincts in Hennepin County are in. It’s possible that Minneapolis is pretty well reported, with some of the more conservative suburbs yet to be tallied. From the checking I’ve done at the Secretary of State’s site, however, I haven’t been able to verify any such pattern. So I’m afraid the votes could well be there to put Franken over the top. Sickening, if true.
FURTHER UPDATE: With almost exactly 90% of precincts reporting, Coleman’s lead is inching back up, currently at 16,000 votes as reported by the Secretary of State.
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