Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R.) celebrates his recount win over Jim Martin (D.).
Republican Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) dashed Democratic hopes of attaining a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate by defeating Jim Martin in Tuesday's run-off election.
The Associated Press projected a win for Chambliss less than two hours after polls closed due to the massive 20-point lead Chambliss was posting.
The GOP Georgia win could stave off Democratic challenges in Minnesota where incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R.) is locked in a contentious recount with comedian-turned-candidate Al Franken (D).
To reach coveted number of 60 Senate seats Democrats needed to win in Georgia on Tuesday and to take the unresolved race in Minnesota.
Coleman has maintained a narrow lead over Franken through the month-long process and Franken's legal team is poised to take contested ballots to court in the face of a loss. A win in Georgia would have provided momentum to mount a long-shot court battle. Without that win, however, Democrats may be less inspired to do so since it would not help them secure the filibuster-proof majority.
Hours before the polls closed National Republican Senatorial Commitee Chairman John Ensign predicted Chambliss would beat Martin by 5-6 points. Ensign attributed the anticipated GOP win to a "far superior" ground game and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's appearances around the state on Monday.
"In a run-off election it's about turning your voters out," Ensign told reporters in a late afternoon conference call. "She was able to get a lot of people excited to make sure they would focus on that race...because of her celebrity she was able to bring press attention and remind people to get out and support Saxby."
Palin stumped with Chambliss at four events on Monday. More than 3,000 attended each of the events, according to press reports.