Jan. 04 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Senate Dem 58   GOP 41   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

Map of the 2010 Senate Races
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News from the Votemaster

Minnesota Recount Complete: Franken Ahead by 225 Votes

The Minnesota canvassing board finished counting all 900 rejected absentee ballots that the parties agreed on yesterday and the unofficial count puts Al Franken ahead by 225 votes. Franken won 52% of the newly counted absentee ballots to Coleman's 33%, with the rest going to independent Dean Barkley or there was no vote for senator. There is nothing left to count now.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) has not conceded. Instead, he has filed suit with the Minnesota Supreme Court asking for more absentee ballots from other counties to be counted. If he loses this case, he has promised to file another suit. It is not clear if he really thinks he can win or he is merely stalling to reduce Democratic strength in the new Senate for the first month or so. If the Minnesota and Illinois seats are empty Tuesday, the Democrats will have 57 seats (counting Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Joe Lieberman, independents who have lunch with the Democrats on Tuesdays) and the Republicans will have 41 seats. Cloture requires a 3/5 majority or 58.8, presumably 59 in practice, so the Democrats will be 2 shy. If Franken wins and someone is seated from Illinois in the fullness of time, the Democrats will have 59 seats and be one short.

Having a former comedian in the Senate may seem odd, but other senators have somewhat unusual backgrounds, too. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) used to be a veterinarian and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) was a blacksmith. At least Franken is accustomed to speaking to large numbers of people and is able to keep their attention. Many senators were lawyers, but the step from being a lawyer to being a lawmaker isn't really so obvious when you come to think of it. Senators make public policy, which is really quite different than defending clients in court or writing contracts, which is what lawyers do. Senators don't really even need a detailed knowledge of the law since the actual laws are written by staff members. Few, if any, senators spend the day sitting at their computers typing in the text of the law they are working on.

Six-way Race for RNC Chairman Heats Up

The battle for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee has heated up. The Republican Party has essentially been decapitated. Without a President, Senate majority leader, or House Speaker, who represents the party? John McCain is not going to run again and has little credibility as national leader. While Sarah Palin is wildly popular in some circles, she is no shoe-in in 2012, so she is hardly the party leader either. De facto, the party leader is probably going to be the chairman of the Republican National Committee, which is currently engaged in a vigorous six-way election for chairman. The candidates are as follows:

Candidate State Notes
Saul Anuzis Michigan Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party
Ken Blackwell Ohio Former Ohio Secretary of State
Katon Dawson South Carolina Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party
Mike Duncan Kentucky Current chairman of the RNC
Chip Saltsman Tennessee Former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party
Michael Steele Maryland Former lieutenant governor of Maryland

The chairman is elected by the 168-person RNC, a body with three members from each state, where American Samoa, D.C., Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the American Virgin Islands count as states. Republicans Abroad does not count as a state and is not represented despite the fact that about 7 million Americans live overseas, which would rank 13th as a state (in contrast, Democrats Abroad counts as a state for the DNC).

The election for RNC chairman is not only about who will wield the gavel at RNC meetings, but is really a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Does the party want to become more conservative, strengthen its base in the South, and reflexively oppose everything the Democrats do (Saltsman, Dawson)? Or does it want its own 50-state strategy, copied from Howard Dean (Anuzis, Steele)? Or it could keep on doing what it is already doing by re-electing Mike Duncan. Unusual for the Republicans, two of the candidates are black (Blackwell and Steele). Does the party want to reach out to minorities? Electing a black man as national chairman would certainly send a message of inclusion. However, neither of the two black candidates is ideal. Blackwell was extremely controversial in his role running the 2004 Ohio presidential election and was crushed in his run for governor of Ohio in 2006. Steele's last run for public office was his defeat by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) in 2006.

Saltsman is no stranger to controversy either. Part of his campaign to woo the 168 RNC members was to send each one a package of information about himself and his goals that included a CD with a track Barack the Magic Negro to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon." It caused a huge uproar. Some Republicans said it was a tempest in a teapot and America has a long history of political satire (see: Franken, Sen. Al). Others felt that if the party wants to expand its nearly all-white base, this is not a good start.

There are no polls about how the 168 eligible voters are leaning. Probably the safest course is to stick with known leadership and reelect Duncan. On the other hand, Duncan presided over the party machinery during the 2008 disaster for the Republicans, so "more of the same" may not be the most attractive option. We'll see.

McAuliffe Announces VA Gubernatorial Bid

Being national party chairman has some other advantages, too. It has launched quite a few people to elective office, George H.W. Bush, for example. Now a former DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe, is running for governor of Virginia. McAuliffe is a prodigious fundraiser. It is thought he can raise $80 million for this race. Virginia is becoming a blue state, with statewide victories for Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005, Sen. Jim Webb in 2006, and Sen. Mark Warner and Barack Obama in 2008, so McAuliffe has a decent shot at it.

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