We might be heading towards a resolution in CA-04, one of the three House races that have yet to be called. For much of the past three weeks, Republican nominee Tom McClintock has been holding on to a narrow lead with tens of thousands of ballots remained to be tallied. McClintock’s campaign eagerly proclaimed that “the fat lady hasn’t begun singing yet, but she’s on stage and wearing a McClintock button.”
But as Democratic-leaning Nevada County updated its totals daily, McClintock’s advantage melted away and was down to merely 329 votes as of yesterday morning - leading Charlie Brown’s campaign manager to counter that “McClintock knows this opera is far from over. And that singer has gone backstage to re-accessorize.”
With Nevada County and El Dorado County having nearly finished counting their ballots, all eyes turned to Placer County. Not only is Placer the biggest reservoir of votes in the district, but it had also decided to not release any updated count after Election Day until it had finished counting all the remaining votes (more than 20,000), leaving Democrats and Republicans bracing for a big dump of votes that would suddenly alter the shape of the race.
That is exactly what happened today, as Placer finally reported! Unfortunately for Democrats, the thousands of votes that were suddenly added to the totals caused McClintock’s lead to dramatically expand from 329 to 1,566 votes. (That’s a margin of 0.6%, which would mean Brown would not be entitled to a recount.) Placer’s absentee and provisional ballots were even more Republican-tilting than those that had been counted on November 4th.
Less than 5,000 ballots reportedly remain to be counted, making it virtually impossible for Brown to close the gap. Yet, the press has been unable to verify that Nevada and Placer have actually completed their count. If that is confirmed, CA-04 could quickly be called for McClintock, making this district yet another crucial save by the GOP.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the recount’s fourth day proved to be the first that benefited Norm Coleman as the Republican Senator now leads by 180 votes (up from 136 the day before). That is a net gain of 44 votes, an impressive result given that only 4% of ballots were recounted today.
However, this could be due to a more aggressive challenges by Coleman watchers. As of yesterday, the Franken campaign had challenged more ballots than the opposition; by tonight, however, Republicans had objected to 1,005 ballots compared to 977 for Franken.
As of Saturday evening, by contrast, Coleman had lost 691 votes among recounted ballots compared to the initial count and Franken had lost 656 votes. Those numbers are significantly inferior to those of challenged ballots, suggesting that Franken and Coleman are challenging hundred of ballots that were not originally tallied. It is those ballots and those ballots only that will make or break Coleman’s lead - making it unlikely that we will gain much of a resolution before mid-December.