Senate race latest: analysis

Control of the Senate currently rests in a few ballot boxes in Montana and Virginia.  As the UK media seem to lack any eye for detail (did anyone else see any of the appallingly bad coverage on Sky News overnight?) we thought we’d bring you a bit of proper analysis.

In Montana, we are waiting on the results from Meagher County.  As it stands, Democratic challenger Jon Tester is just over 1700 votes ahead.  Meagher is a traditional rural Republican county which went 72% for Bush in ’04.  However, it is sparsely populated and normally only around a thousand of its residents turn out to vote.  In theory, scandal-plagued Republican incumbent Conrad Burns could still turn it round, but in practice there just won’t be enough votes there unless something very suspicious happens.

More critical will be the rules about a recount – if the result is within a quarter of a percent then under Montana law the loser can request a recount and the State picks up the tab.  A quarter of a percent would be about a thousand votes – so a good turnout from Meagher County would mean Burns gets a recount on the taxpayer, which he would probably take.  If he is up to half a percent off, then he has to pick up the tab himself.

So, touching every available wood surface in The Daily’s newsroom, we reckon it’s a Tester victory in this count, but with a strong chance that there will be a recount and no final result for days.

The situation is similar in Virginia.  Democratic challenger Jim Webb has a lead of just under 8000 over gaffe-prone GOP incumbent George Allen.  There are precincts still to report in Loudoun County, Fairfax City and the Isle of Wight (no, really).  Loudoun breaks pretty evenly, Fairfax leans Democratic and Isle of Wight leans Republican.  The latter is more populous than Fairfax but there are more precincts still to go there.  Though it may be Republican areas still to report, it’s extremely hard – again, touching wood – to see how Allen can find the numbers of votes to make a shock comeback.

But again, under Virginia state law, he can ask for a recount if the result is under 1% which seems certain.  So, both states may well end up recounting votes over the days ahead, with the US Senate majority depending how the hanging chads land.

18.20 update****

AP are now reporting that Tester has claimed victory in Montana. No info yet on whether there will be a recount, but at the very least, it would appear that the Republicans have lost their majority in the Senate. It now only remains to be seen if there will be a dead heat of 50/50 with Dick Cheney breaking the deadlock with the speaker’s casting vote, or whether the Democratic Party can get a majority of one senator.

In other news, Don Rumsfeld has resigned and will be replaced by former CIA head Robert Gates.


5 Responses to Senate race latest: analysis

  1. Max says:

    I’m now feeling pretty confident of the Dems at least ending with most votes in both of these races – if there are recounts, that could of course change, but there should be a decent enough lead to hang on I reckon!

    Loudoun’s now reported; looks like there’s only 4 precincts to go, in Isle of Wight, James City and Fairfax City, and they aren’t likely to overturn what’s currently a 7000 vote advantage.

    In Montana, Meagher’s not only small, but in the last mid-terms, went 54-40 for the Democratic Max Baucus, so the voters there can be swayed by candidates, not just party labels.
    Even in 2000, it netted Burns fewer than 400.

    I’m calling both of these for the Dems, at least on the first count.

    And no, I’m not Max Baucus…!

  2. Dave Cole says:

    Very interesting analysis. However, people may be more wary of blatant fraud at recounts after seeing the dismal failure of Katherine Harris in Florida, losing by 22%.

    I don’t think, though, that either Virginia or Montana use punch cards anymore, having switched to computerised systems.

  3. If Max is calling it for the Dems, that’s almost as good as CNN calling it.

  4. “Isle of Wight leans Republican”

    Not surprising with all the yachtspeople they have there.

  5. Liberalone says:

    The DSCC are calling both a win:

    From the DSCC:
    Both Jon Tester and Jim Webb have won their races in Montana and Virginia but want to make sure that every vote is counted. We expect to have official results soon but can happily declare today that Democrats have taken the majority in the U.S. Senate.

    Montana Vote Situation: Jon Tester leads Conrad Burns by approximately 1,700 votes (as of 11am EDT) and counting. In Silver Bow County (Butte), a Democratic stronghold, votes are still being counted but Tester is winning there with 66% of the vote. We expect to gain the majority of these uncounted votes and to add to Tester’s margin.

    Montana Process: When the counting phase is completed, a canvass will verify the vote tallies. That process could take as long as 48 hours, and must begin within three days and end within seven. Unless the canvass shows the margin to be within ¼ of 1%, there is no recount. As the loser, Burns would have to request the recount. When the votes are all counted, we expect to be outside that recount margin.

    Virginia Vote Situation: Jim Webb is up by approximately 8,000 votes and once the provisional ballots are counted, we expect Webb’s margin to increase. (Please note that VA absentees were included in the tallies from last night.)

    Virginia Process: A canvass is underway to verify the results and we expect that process to finish within a day or so. To be in recount, the margin needs to be less than 1% and Allen (as the loser) would have to request it. Because of Virginia voting laws, the margin would have to be much tighter than it currently is to see any change in the outcome. Given the current margins, that is highly, highly unlikely.

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