Feel the ‘momentum’

FEEL THE ‘MOMENTUM’…. The results out of Georgia last night were disappointing for Democrats, but not surprising. In the runoff election, Republican incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss easily defeated Democrat Jim Martin, 57% to 43%. It was clearly the best news the Republican Party has had in quite some time.

But let’s not get carried away.

Chambliss was introduced at his victory party Tuesday night by Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan as “Mr. 41,” and he declared that Republicans “now have the momentum” after his victory.

Ah, yes, “the momentum.” Republicans needed a runoff to keep a Senate seat they expected to win easily, in a reliably “red” state, and it’s evidence of a party with the wind at its back. Of course it is.

Republicans have the smallest House minority in nearly two decades, and the smallest Senate minority in nearly three decades. They got trounced in the presidential race, and are now easily outnumbered in the nation’s governorships. But they managed, with surprising difficulty, to hold on to a Senate seat in Georgia. Can’t you just feel the momentum?

Look, any reasonable observer had to agree that Martin had a tough road to victory. Barack Obama did awfully well on Election Day, and he came up well short in Georgia, and that’s with a massive turnout operation. Chambliss came just shy of wrapping this up in November, and was clearly the favorite going into the runoff. Republicans were worried enough about the race to send the entire party apparatus to Georgia to ensure victory, but that’s largely because this race was considered a “firewall” contest for the GOP.

As for the other key angle here, Chambliss’ win will necessarily keep Democrats from claiming a 60-seat majority. That said, as we’ve talked about before, the “magic number” isn’t quite as magical as it’s made out to be, and the Democratic majority is still poised to be awfully large — the largest, in fact, since 1979.

With Georgia resolved, this leaves Minnesota’s race as the only unsettled contest. At this point, it appears Al Franken may very well turn out to be the 59th member of the Democratic caucus.