With Mark Begich winning in Alaska, Jeff Merkley victorious in Oregon and Al Franken hot on Norm Coleman’s heels, it looks like the Democrats' quest for 60 Senate seats is headin’ on down to Georgia, where early voting has begun in a run-off between Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin.
Democrats are fighting an uphill battle in the red state: A Rasmussen poll shows Martin 4 points back and Georgia’s secretary of state reports a decrease in African-American turnout. But the party is doing its best to take the seat, and hoping that some of the residual enthusiasm from Barack Obama's win will help Martin.
Meanwhile, Republicans are doing their best to make sure this ends up as more than a war of Democratic aggression. Both parties have begun diverting significant resources, including some big names, to the peach state. John McCain and Mike Huckabee have already stumped for Chambliss. Bill Clinton is putting his weight behind Martin. And Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Al Gore are on their way, as are a host of Obama campaign operatives. The Republican National Committee has committed 2 million dollars to helping the Chambliss campaign, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has begun airing ads that claim Martin helped create the biggest tax hike in Georgia history.
The run-off was mandated by Georgia election rules, which say that a candidate needs to receive a majority of the vote in order to be elected. On Nov. 4th, Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley kept both Chambliss and Martin from hitting the 50 percent plus one mark. Buckley -- who will not be on the ballot this time around -- is embracing his spoiler status and showing, as they say in Georgia, a bit of chutzpah. He's has now said that in order to receive his endorsement Chambliss and Martin would have to sign on to a lengthy statement of principles. Neither is likely to do so.
Update: Due to an editing error, the original version of this post mistakenly identified Senator-elect Jeff Merkley as Gordon Merkley. Our apologies, and thanks, to the readers who pointed out the mistake.