TED STEVENS’ CHANCES DETERIORATE…. The Anchorage Daily News took a closer look at the remaining ballots in the state’s closely-watched U.S. Senate race. Republicans aren’t going to like what the paper found.

More than half the absentee and questioned ballots still to be counted in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race come from areas of the state that backed Democrat Mark Begich on Election Day.

That’s not a good sign for Republican Sen. Ted Stevens as he seeks to overcome Begich’s 814-vote lead when counting resumes today of just over 41,000 remaining ballots. A Daily News analysis, based on data provided by the state Division of Elections, shows that 56 percent of those ballots come from districts that favored Begich on Nov. 4.

The state will count about 40 percent of remaining ballots today and the rest early next week. Democrats like the trend but are wary of expressing too much confidence in a state that for decades has proven a graveyard for their hopes.

“I’ll celebrate when I hear the words … ‘and the winner is,’ ” Begich said.

The Stevens campaign has fallen silent, offering no comment on the ballot count.

Just as importantly, Eric Kleefeld noted that Begich’s vote totals may likely give him a lead of around 4,000 votes, which would be “enough to put him beyond the margin that would require a recount.’

One other side note to consider: a member of the now-infamous Alaskan Independence Party was also on the ballot in this race, and won over 11,000 votes (about 4% of the total). Given the margins between Stevens and Begich, I suspect there are a lot of Alaskan Republicans looking at the AIP as their own local Naderites right about now.

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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.