And then there were 58

AND THEN THERE WERE 58…. I was holding off a bit, waiting to see if there’d be a statewide recount, but thankfully, Senator and convicted felon Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) conceded this afternoon.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has conceded defeat to Democratic challenger Mark Begich in the Alaska Senate race.

Stevens, 85, was the longest serving Republican senator in the chamber’s history.

“Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected,” Stevens said in a statement.”

Stevens’ concession officially makes Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich a senator-elect, and officially brings the Senate Democratic caucus to 58. There are, of course, two remaining races that are unresolved: Minnesota (where a statewide recount began today) and Georgia (where there will be a runoff election on Dec. 2).

The resolution in Alaska has, of course, renewed discussion of a possible 60-seat majority — in theory, filibuster-proof — pending the last two contests. Just to reiterate a point from last week, it’s best not to make too big a deal about this threshold.

Yes, every vote counts, and Republican obstructionist tactics are a given, but every major vote brings it own challenges, and there’s never a guarantee that everyone in the Democratic caucus will vote together (Lieberman is, after all, part of the caucus). For that matter, there’s no reason to believe that every Republican is necessarily going to back their party on cloture votes.

In fact, the real fun of the next Congress will be how center-right Republicans from “blue” states — Snowe, Collins, Voinovich, and Specter, I’m looking in your direction — respond to popular policy proposals launched by a popular Democratic president.

A 60-seat majority would be a milestone for the party, but it’s hardly a green light to problem-free governing. Something to keep in mind.