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Can Chambliss hold his Senate seat?

From MSNBC.com's Tom Curry
One thing we know is that next Wednesday it'll be over, right? We'll know who the new president will be and whether the Democrats will have a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate? Right?

Maybe not.

Insiders in Georgia are convinced that there's a very real possibility that neither Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss nor Democrat Jim Martin will have the 50 percent plus one that is needed under Georgia law to determine a winner.

A third candidate, Libertarian lawyer/accountant Allen Buckley has made a strong showing in at least one of the televised debates, but seems unlikely to get more than 10 percent.

If no candidate wins outright next Tuesday, the top two vote getters would go to a Dec. 2 runoff.

A Georgia run-off might be the contest that determines whether Democrats get their 60th member of the Senate, giving them the filibuster-proof majority that would enable Obama, if he's president, to appoint judges and enact his legislative agenda with relatively little effective Republican opposition.

If that were the caseĀ -- if Democratic candidate Martin became the focus for Republicans of a "don't let them get 60 seats" GOP effort -- it would make for a very spirited and costly contest.

The Republicans at least would have precedent going for them: Paul Coverdell defeated Democrat Wyche Fowler in a 1992 runoff, the first inkling that perhaps the Bill Clinton-era wasn't going to be so great for Democrats.

In an interview, Buckley said that if he himself does not make the runoff, he may offer up his endorsement to the candidate who persuades him that he's worthy.

"The more votes I get, the more leverage I'll have," he said.

Buckley sounds a bit harsher in dismissing Chambliss than in criticizing Martin.

He calls Chambliss "a proven failure." Martin, he says, "is a nice guy, but he's not the answer either" because he hasn't convinced Buckley he's credible on cutting federal spending.

In his own way, Buckley may end up being as important as that other third party Senate candidate, Dean Barkley in Minnesota.