Nail Biter

October 16, 2008

I’m watching the Senate race, and 60-40 are numbers to bite nails to. Senate cloture rules give a minority of no less than 41 members a lot of leverage to moderate (filibuster) legislation they oppose, so having 60 or 41 votes in the Senate is the best thing a majority or minority party, respectively, can have — besides the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., explains 41 to the Wall Street Journal:

When I woke up after the election in November 2006, I realized I was going to be the Republican leader and not the majority leader. That was the bad news. The good news is that 49 is not a bad number in a body that requires 60. The United States Senate is the only legislative body in the world where a majority is not enough.

My goal from the very beginning… is to use the power of 41 — or more — to do one of two things: either to stop things that are totally awful…or more frequently, to use the power of 41 to shape. Really bad ideas die in the Senate, and in that sense it has protected America from extremes throughout our history.

Methinks advancing Dems have to take one of the tossup states in the South (Georgia, Kentucky, or Mississippi) and all the others elsewhere whereas defending Republicans have to hold on to at least three tossup states. The odds favor the GOP losing ground yet maintaining 41, however, any ratio nearing 60-40, factoring in moderates, mavericks, and independents, alters the game.

FiveThirtyEight.com gave a 60-seat majority odds of 1 out of 4 a week ago and is now calling 1 out of 3. With less than three weeks left, this is the stretch that’s more like sports than anything else.

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