Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Democrats win Senate...wait, not so fast

As I have often observed, Democrats are a lot like Phillies fans - always dreading the worst, usually for good reason. It did appear, however, that their habitual gloom was dispelled on Nov. 9, when the U.S. Senate officially went Democratic, 51-49.

But not so fast. As the late great Gilda Radner used to say, it's always something.

There is news tonight that Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has been hospitalized with a possible strike. We all wish him a speedy recovery, and that's what matters most. The political stakes, however, are obvious. Let's play this one out:

If Johnson is somehow unable to serve, he might have to step down.

If he steps down, the governor of South Dakota is empowered to appoint a replacement (who, as I read the state law, would be allowed to serve until a special election is held - on the same day as the next general 2008).

The governor of South Dakota is a Republican. The odds that he would appoint a Republican are approximately 200 percent.

If a Republican takes Johnson's seat, the '07 Senate party breakdown would be 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

If it's a 50-50 breakdown, Vice President Cheney is empowered to break the tie.

Which means that the Republicans would probably get to run the Senate after all...although, as explained here, it's not necessarily that simple. Is there ever a dull moment in national politics anymore?

And speaking of political power swings, am I the only person who remembers that Al Gore conceded his presidential candidacy six years ago tonight?