STEVENS’ POLLSTER SEES BEGICH WIN…. As Hilzoy noted overnight, Mark Begich (D) has surged past convicted felon Ted Stevens (R) in Alaska’s Senate race, with a current lead of 814 votes. How good are the odds that Begich will push the Democratic majority to 58 seats? Republican pollster David Dittman, who worked for Stevens during the GOP primary in Alaska this year, thinks the race is effectively over.

“I don’t think Stevens can come back,” Dittman said, noting that he thinks the remaining trove of uncounted ballots will help Begich “increase his lead.”

Even if Begich’s advantage grows, however, Dittman believes it’s highly unlikely that Stevens will concede the race until every last ballot is counted. “He’s probably waiting in Washington,” Dittman said. “I haven’t talked to him since the evening of the election, when I called and just told him I was sorry for the way it turned out.”

Dittman believes early and absentee ballots, which compromise the approximately 40,000 votes left to count, will likely reflect Begichs’ overall advantage so far among those who took advantage of either process. Heavy early voting occurred in the period that directly followed Stevens’ conviction on seven felony counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms.

This follows Sean Quinn’s analysis: “The remaining votes come from Begich-friendly districts. Mark Begich is now an overwhelming favorite to win the Alaska Senate seat.”

Much of the political speculation of late has focused on what Senate Republicans would do with the convicted fellow in their midst, and what Sarah Palin would do in the event of Stevens’ expulsion.

A Begich victory would obviously make all of this moot.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.