Nov. 19 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 365   McCain 162   Ties 11
Senate Dem 58   GOP 40   Ties 2
House Dem 255   GOP 175   Ties 5

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Clinton Announcement Likely Next Week Corzine Holds Edge in Re-Election Race

News from the Votemaster

Begich Defeats Stevens in Alaska Senate Race

With all but 2500 votes counted, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D) now has an insurmountable lead of 3724 votes over convicted Sen. Ted. Stevens (R-AK), ending Stevens' career as the longest serving Republican senator in history. The remaining votes, which come from overseas voters and igloos so far north that they don't have polling places, will be counted next week before the tally is finalized. Begich claimed victory yesterday evening; Stevens has not yet conceded. A recount is possible, but Alaska uses optical scan machines and previous recounts have not changed the results much. Begich's victory brings the number of Democrats in the new Senate to 58, with races in Minnesota and Georgia still undecided.

Stevens' defeat saves the Senate Republican caucus the unpleasant task of ejecting him. A motion was made yesterday to do so, but it was tabled pending the outcome of the election. Now with Stevens' defeat, the Republicans don't have to do anything and Stevens' will just slink home quietly to appeal his convictions on seven counts of lying on his Senate disclosure forms.

One of the unsung heroes for the Democrats this year is Bob Bird, who ran for the Senate this year as the candidate of the Alaska Independence Party, which is extremely conservative and also wants Alaska to secede from the United States. He got over 12,000 votes, virtually all of them coming from Stevens. He tipped the scales to Begich. It is not known if Begich sent a thank you note to Ralph Nader for pioneering the role of spoiler 8 years ago. The trouble with third parties who are running to the left of the Democrats or to the right of the Republicans is that in a close race, they usually draw votes from their natural ally and thus elect people they despise.

Mark Begich will be an unusual senator for several reasons. First, his father, Nick Begich, was a congressman. The senior Begich was on a small plane that took off from Anchorage bound for Juneau on Oct 16, 1972. The plane never arrived and after 39 days of searching, the Coast Guard gave up looking for it. Begich's opponent, Don Young (R), won the race and is still in Congress. Second, it is very unusual for a sitting mayor be elected to the Senate [although Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was the former mayor of Chattanooga]. Mayors run for the House all the time, however. Third, Mark Begich will be the only member of the Senate without a college degree.

In other Alaska news, Ethan Berkowitz (D) has conceded defeat in his House race against Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who is now the third longest-serving Republican in the current House.

Minnesota Senate Recount to Start Today

All the ballots have now been counted in the Minnesota Senate race and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) defeated Al Franken (D) by 215 votes. However, an automatic manual recount of all 2.9 million ballots will begin today. Thousands of contested ballots will be fought over one by one in the coming weeks. In addition, the 25,000 undervotes, mostly in Hennepin and two adjacent counties, will be inspected microscopically (possibly literally) to try to determine the voters' intent. The recount will be overseen by a five-man board consisting of Minnesota secretary of state Mark Richie (D) and four state judges. The recount could take a month, perhaps longer if there are many court fights. Both sides have issued content-free spinful remarks on the race. With so many votes sure to be fought over, at this point the race is a pure tossup.

Status of Other Races

Democrat Tom Perriello showed up in Washington yesterday for freshman orientation week and was given an official congressional Blackberry--even though he hasn't actually won yet. In the VA-05 race, he leads the incumbent, Virgil Goode (R-VA) by 745 votes with all the votes counted. Goode hasn't decided if will ask for a recount yet. Both of the candidates in the CA-04 race, Tom McClintock (R) and Charlie Brown (D) also showed up. Currently McClintock clings to a 562 vote lead. Similar, both Mary Jo Kilroy (D) and Steve Stivers (R) went to the orientation. Currently, Stivers leads by 149 votes, but there are 27,000 provisional ballots to be fought over in court and that battle has just begun.

Finally, the "Show me" state is not showing anybody anything. It is taking its sweet time to count all the votes. At the moment, John McCain leads Barack Obama by 4355 votes, but four counties are still counting (now you know why they are called "counties.")

McCain Could Irritate Republicans, Help Obama

John McCain has been endlessly criticized by Republicans for running an incompetent campaign, and especially for not basing his entire campaign on attacking Rev. Jermiah Wright. But McCain could have the last laugh. With Mark Begich likely to be next senator from Alaska, and Al Franken having a decent chance at winning in Minnesota, the Republicans might be down to 41 senators. That would be just enough to prevent cloture--provide that all 41 Republican senators stuck together. But suppose John McCain, stung by all the criticism from Republicans, decided to revert back to his former maverick self and work with the Democrats as he has done in the past (think: Mccain-Feingold on campaign finance reform and McCain-Kennedy on immigration).

Stronger yet, suppose Obama were to ask McCain to work out deals on immigration, climate change, earmark reform, and other issues dear to his heart and then be the 60th vote to get them through the Senate. Mitch McConnell would be in a blue funk having McCain bypass the Republican caucus and negotiate directly with Obama, but McCain could do that and Obama is likely to be receptive to the idea. From McCain's point of view, going down in history as the main author of bills on climate change, immigration, and earmark reform, among other important topics, is a lot better than going down in history as just another failed presidential candidate.

Cabinet Appointments are Starting to Leak Out

Two potential cabinet appointments are making the leak circuit. According to some sources, Sen. Hillary Clinton has been offered the job of secretary of state and Eric Holder, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, has been offered the job of attorney general. Although Obama promised changed, he is likely to name many Clinton-era officials to high positions in his administration because that is by far the best source of candidates.

Jack Markell To Be Sworn in Jan. 20 at 12:01 A.M.

So? And Who's Jack Markell? It is a bit complicated. Unlike Barack Obama, who has already resigned his Senate seat, Joe Biden has said he will not resign his seat until he is sworn in as Vice President on Jan. 20 at noon. His replacement in the Senate will be selected by the governor of Delaware, currently Ruth Ann Minner (D). However Minner's term will end when governor-elect Markell is sworn in--apparently at 12:01 A.M. on Jan. 20. This means that Markell, not Minner, will name Biden's successor. Biden is hoping that his son, Beau Biden, currently the state's attorney general will eventuallly succeed him. However, Beau Biden is a member of the state's National Guard and is about to be shipped off to Iraq, so he can't be appointed now. What Joe Biden is undoubtedly hoping Markell will do is appoint an elderly former office holder who will keep the seat warm until 2010 but not run for reelection, so Beau Biden can run in 2010 once he returns from Iraq. It is possible that Minner refused to appoint a placeholder but Markell agreed. After all, having the Vice President owe you a favor you could call in later is surely worth something to a new governor.

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-- The Votemaster