In addition to Alaska, two other Senate seats remain undecided, but unlike Alaska, where a Republican will win either way (assuming Lisa Murkowski would caucus with the Republicans in the Senate if she wins), the races in Washington and Colorado could go to either party. As it stands now, in Washington, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray is leading Republican challenger Dino Rossi by 14,000 votes (one percent) with only 62 percent of precincts reporting. With half a million votes left to count, anyone could win it, although both candidates are pretty confident in their own chances. In Colorado, the Denver Post has called the race for incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet, even though he’s only leading his Republican opponent Ken Buck by 7,000 votes (0.4 percent) with 88 percent of precincts reporting. If the final difference is less than 0.5 percent, an automatic recount will take place.
With absentee and mail-in ballots to be collected and counted in Washington, and the possibility of a recount in Colorado, these races might not be decided for weeks. Their results can make a world of difference, though, in the Senate balance of power. The Democrats currently lead 51-46, but there’s plenty of speculation that if Republicans can win Alaska, Washington, and Colorado, a certain Independent Connecticut senator with tenuous ties to the Democratic Party could be coaxed to the GOP side. If Nebraska moderate Ben Nelson can also be convinced to switch teams — perhaps hoping it’ll boost his reelection prospects in 2012 — the GOP could conceivably plunder their way to a Senate majority.
Now, neither Lieberman nor Nelson has said or even implied that they’re considering such a thing, but it’s on everyone’s mind. Senators Jim DeMint and John Cornyn have even started the recruitment process. If either Colorado or Washington go Democratic it’ll be a moot point. But you have to imagine that Joe Lieberman is secretly rooting for a Republican sweep. Even if he doesn’t intend to switch parties, he’d love to hold the possibility over the heads of the Democrats for the next two years.