Last week's comfortable re-election victory for Sen. Saxby Chambliss comes as an early Christmas gift to Republicans still smarting from the comprehensive drubbing they suffered in November. It also ends the Democrats' dream of exacting "revenge" on the man who defeated their beloved Max Cleland in 2002 by allegedly questioning his patriotism, or so the legend goes. The GOP win in Georgia should not be over-hyped, but it may provide a few insights about the national political landscape—as well as a small dose of good news for the Right.
First, Chambliss' 14-point margin of victory ended up being substantially higher than polls predicted. On November 4, Chambliss barely missed the 50 percent threshold that would have staved of a run-off, edging challenger Jim Martin by a paltry three points. Public opinion surveys leading up to the subsequent election indicated Chambliss had a sizeable lead, although only in the mid-to-high single digits. When the runoff votes came in on December 2, the incumbent surged to a solid 57 percent, and any lingering Republican anxiety over holding the seat gave way to sighs of relief. The blowout win puts to rest most fears of an unstoppable blue tide destined to overwhelm even the reddest of states. As Michael Barone's characteristically excellent turnout analysis indicates, the GOP did a commendable job of mobilizing its supporters for the must-win runoff.
Second, the win locked up a crucial 41st Senate seat for the minority party, thus securing the means to launch filibusters designed to block the most noxious leftist proposals being debated in the Democrat-controlled Congress. Unless the unserious Democrat candidate in Minnesota manages to litigate his way into office, Mitch McConnell will have 42 votes in his caucus with which to work. Granted, there's no guarantee that Senate Republicans will be able to forge the requisite united front to actually mount successful filibusters, depending on the issue at hand. The key is that a plausible filibuster threat now exists, which would not be the case in a 60-40 chamber.