With less than two weeks to go before Georgia’s runoff, both sides are intensifying their efforts. Bill Clinton will hold an event with Jim Martin today, while the GOP is injecting money to boost Saxby Chambliss’s prospect. The RNC announced today that it is transferring $2 million in the coffers of the heavily indebted RNSC; the money will allow the RNSC to air a heavy rotation of advertisement over the next two weeks and help fund the GOP’s ground game.
We are already getting our first hint of turnout as the state’s Elections Division has started releasing daily early voting updates - and the news could be troubling to Democrats. Polls have been opened or two days, and African-Americans have made up 24% of early voters. That is a significant drop from the general election period, where 35% of early voters were African-American. It is still early to draw conclusions, but if those numbers hold it would be a worrisome sign for Martin’s chances and an indication that sporadic voters who went to the polls on November 4th have not been fully integrated to the political process just yet.
Meanwhile, Rasmussen released its first runoff poll (the second released by any institute, as Research 2000 found Chambliss leading by 3% last week). Rasmussen finds no change from the November 4th situation, with Chambliss leading 50% to 46%. It is very difficult to come up with an accurate turnout model, however, so most of these polls should be taken with a grain of salt - but Chambliss remains slightly favored for now.
In Minnesota, the recount was launched today! As of mid-afternoon Franken had gained a bit: With an estimated 2% of ballots recounted, Coleman’s lead sat at 212 votes (down from 215). 53 ballots have been challenged (28 by Coleman watchers and 25 by Franken watchers). The Secretary of State’s office will issue a full report of the day’s tallies at 8pm ET, and I will post an update then. (Update: Take it as a sign that we should expect quite a roller coaster during the recount, as Coleman’s lead is suddenly up at 224 votes with 4% of ballots recounted. 93 ballots have been challenged.)
It is difficult to know what a ballot contains based on which campaigns is challenging it. That Franken staffers issued a challenge, for instance, could either mean that the ballot was going to be counted for Coleman but that Democrats contend it should not or that there is no clear intent; it could also mean that the ballot was going to be discarded as an under-vote but that Democrats think that the intent to vote Franken is evident. In other words, we are in this for the long haul - most probably all the way until mid-December.
At the very least, Democrats enjoyed a legal victory today when a judge ruled that Ramsey County had to provide the Franken campaign with a list of list of absentee ballots that were not counted and the reason for their rejection. The Franken campaign had sought that list with the hope of finding voters whose ballot was unduly not processed and argue for their inclusion in front of the canvassing board. (That would not happen for another three weeks.)
The long-standing hostility between the two camps, the razon-thin margin and the liberal definition of clear intent used by Minnesota election officials guarantees that the recount will be highly acrimonious and that we should expect many legal battles to be launched by both parties in what could essentially be a repeat of Washington’s 2004 gubernatorial race. For anyone interested in how absurd Minnesota’s process could become in the weeks ahead, this summary of the Washington proceeding is a good place to start.