End In Sight For Ga., Minn. Elections For those who thought this week's holiday was to give thanks to the fact that the elections are over, think again. Minnesota's still counting votes, and Georgia's headed back to the polls.
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End In Sight For Ga., Minn. Elections

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End In Sight For Ga., Minn. Elections

End In Sight For Ga., Minn. Elections

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This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up, prized gorillas in Congo. But first, for those who thought this week's holiday was to give thanks for the fact that the elections are over, not so fast. Georgia voters go to the polls on Tuesday to try and settle a Senate race that failed to produce a winner on November 4. They're still counting votes in Minnesota in that Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. New senators will have to be picked to replace Barack Obama in Illinois and presumably Hillary Clinton in New York. Helping to make sense of all of this is NPR political editor Ken Rudin. Ken, thanks very much for being with us.

KEN RUDIN: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: And first, set the scene for us in Georgia.

RUDIN: Well, Saxby Chambliss, seeking a second term, did not receive 50 percent of the vote. That's the law in Georgia. You need 50 percent plus one. He only got 49.8 percent, so he's going to a runoff on Tuesday with Jim Martin, the Democratic challenger who finished about 110,000 votes behind Chambliss. This has become a proxy more like the Spanish Civil War. It's a who's who in both parties coming down to campaign for both Chambliss and Martin. Barack Obama has not come down for Jim Martin, but he has done a radio ad for him.

SIMON: Let's listen to that.

(Soundbite of Democratic campaign ad for Jim Martin)

President-elect BARACK OBAMA: This is Barack Obama. I want to thank everybody who turned out and voted for me in November. Together we can get America moving again. But the elections aren't over. In Georgia, there's a runoff on Tuesday, December 2. And I want to urge you to turn out one more time and help elect Jim Martin to the United States Senate.

RUDIN: Now, Republicans, of course, are saying that this is the worst thing that could possibly happen. They're fearful if the Democrats get Georgia and the Minnesota Senate race, which is still being counted over, they could reach the magic number of 60. So they're saying that Jim Martin would be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama. John McCain, remember him? He ran for president in 2008. It was in all the papers. He was there campaigning for him...

SIMON: And, of course, the Republicans have been running their own ad.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign ad for Saxby Chambliss)

Unidentified Announcer: Barack Obama has been elected president.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): We're going to be increasing our majorities in the House and in the United States Senate.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Unidentified Man: If Martin wins, that gets the Democrats that much closer to 60 in the Senate. And at 60, they can do just about anything they want.

RUDIN: It's like the opening salvo for 2010. I mean, 2008 is not even over yet. Georgia is extremely important for both parties.

SIMON: And let me ask about Minnesota. My gosh, that's a close race.

RUDIN: When it was over on November 4, we thought it was over. Norm Coleman, the Republican, led Al Franken, the Democratic challenger, by 215 votes. It's been an automatic recount. It's very, very nasty. Both sides are accusing the other of trying to steal the election. On December 16, just before Christmas, we will have a winner in the Minnesota Senate race.

SIMON: Let me ask you about some of the other Senate vacant seats that are coming up because you have two very high-profile seats, Illinois and New York. Now first Illinois - it has been almost two weeks since Senator Obama resigned and no successor.

RUDIN: Right. Rod Blagojevich, (unintelligible), is the Democratic governor of Illinois. He's been under tremendous pressure to name an African-American to succeed Obama in the Senate - Obama being the only black currently in the Senate. So there's a lot of people who are lobbying for that position. In New York, David Paterson - he become governor after Eliot Spitzer left the seat. There's tremendous lobbying by Democrats to succeed Hillary Clinton should she be named as secretary of state, of course...

SIMON: And some pressure for him to go upstate for the...

RUDIN: Absolutely upstate. There's a great article this week by Clyde Haberman in The New York Times. He said, surely Governor Paterson will be able to find a gay, black, Roman Catholic woman with a Latino surname thanks to her father and a mother who was born in China to Christian missionary parents who converted to Judaism. There are so many constituencies in New York...

SIMON: Well, that covers at least a dozen names...

RUDIN: Exactly right. And one of them is Brian Higgins, a two-term congressman from Buffalo. Governor Paterson is from New York City. Senator Schumer is from New York City. Democrats would love to have somebody from upstate New York.

SIMON: NPR's political editor Ken Rudin, thanks very much. Your weekly online column, "Political Junkie," becomes a daily blog starting Monday.

RUDIN: This is great news for America.

SIMON: That's a lot of work for you.

RUDIN: It's about time.

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