For the past three election cycles — covering, therefore, every seat in the Senate that will take office in January — Republicans have lost virtually every extremely close race, meaning a race that ends with margins within about 10,000-15,000 votes. This appears to be the case again this year, if Ken Buck and Dino Rossi also fall short. Consider all the following senators who won by knife’s edge:
Mark Begich, Alaska, 4,000 votes or 1% — and this, only after a flawed conviction of Ted Stevens.
Michael Bennet, Colorado — This isn’t over yet, but the Denver Post has called it for Bennet by an incredibly narrow margin.
Al Franken, Minnesota — 312 votes, .011%…. and if he really won among real, eligible voters, I’m a 7-foot-7 starting center for the Knicks.’
Tim Johnson, South Dakota — Okay, his narrow win actually was back in 2002, over John Thune, and he has been re-elected since then while Thune knocked off Tom Daschle, who probably would have survived anyone but Thune. So this one is a wash.
Mary Landrieu — her tightest race was her first election, in 1996, which she won by less than 6,000 votes in an election suspicious due to a ton of gambling money. A Republican incumbent otherwise almost certainly would have won that seat in each of her next two races.
Frank Lautenberg, N.J. — Okay, I’m changing my criteria from “close” to “questionable.” By New Jersey law, there was no way that Lautenberg should have been let into the race to replace the disgraced Robert Torricelli in 2002 — who surely would have lost.
Claire McCaskill, Missouri, and Jeff Merkely, Oregon: Both won in the end by a bit more than my 15,000 range, and won fair and square…. but still, their wins were remarkably close.
Patty Murray — Not over yet, but it looks like she will edge poor Dino Rossi.
Jon Tester, Montana, 3,500 votes, just under 1%, after incumbent Conrad Burns was slimed with ethics complaints that didn’t entirely prove true.
Jim Webb, Virginia — 9,000 votes, or .3%. The Washington Post ran a horrendously biased front-page campaign against Republican George Allen to help Webb sneak through.
Harry Reid — He did beat Angle by five percent, not an absolute squeaker, but he won two terms ago by just a few hundred votes.
There — that’s a heck of a list. Not a single current Republican, I think (unless I missed one), can be said to have just squeaked into office, with the exception of Thune over Daschle, which was payback . It seems to me that the Dems are better at “finding” votes than the Repubs are. What this means in terms of political ability, I don’t know, but it does mean that even a normal distribution of close races rather than a Demo sweep would mean that the GOP would have a majority… which, of course, they won’t have come January, absent some weird party switches.