In the U.S. Senate, a 60-seat majority is called a "filibuster-proof" majority because it is the number necessary to invoke cloture and overcome a filibuster. This number is essential in an era of timid senators who give up on a bill when they smell a filibuster.
But now, with a tepid control of the Senate, the Democrats are threatening to reach the holy plateau as long as they don't kick out maverick-lite Sen. Joseph Lieberman from their caucus.
The Democrats' quest gets its biggest boost from the Udall family. Congressman Mark Udall is poised for a healthy win in Colorado and his cousin, Congressman Tom Udall, is the heavy favorite in New Mexico. They'll be taking over for retiring Republicans, while offering long coattails for Sen. Barack Obama in two swing states.
Their second cousin, Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, a moderate Republican, is being cursed for his ties to the GOP and will not be as lucky. Oregon is a liberal state and Smith is likely to go down in a year when even an unqualified comedian can be credible as a Democrat.
Speaking of Al Franken, he has a chance to knock off incumbent Republican Norm Coleman in Minnesota. Coleman's numbers have plummeted since he voted for the bailout, but the unknown variable remains Independent Dean Barkley. In a state that elected Jesse "The Body" Ventura governor it doesn't seem a stretch that they'll elect Franken.
From the comical to the ridiculous we head to Alaska, where Democratic hopes rest on a bribery trial concerning Sen. Ted Stevens. The race is tight now, but if Stevens is convicted, the seat will easily fall into the Democrats' hands. Even if he is acquitted, Stevens' shortcomings are so high in number that he could lose anyway.
The Alaska race could lower the average age of the Senate, but any movement will be offset when the "Baby of the Senate," Republican Sen. John Sununu loses in New Hampshire. This is a rematch from 2002, but this time former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen will have her revenge. This state is indicative of the country's temperament, as New Hampshire had been a bastion of conservatism until 2006 when, like Virginia, it shifted blue.
In Virginia the race to replace retiring Republican John Warner was over a long time ago and now the only question is whether Democrat Mark Warner will use this seat to mount a presidential campaign in the future. As for the present, Warner's massive support has put the state in play for Obama's campaign.
The final state the Democrats are likely to pick up is North Carolina, where Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, incumbent, has run a lackluster campaign and will be hurt by the expected high black turnout.
If the Democrats run the table in these eight races they'll be only one vote shy of the "Promised Land," needing an upset in Kentucky, Mississippi or Georgia. A win in Kentucky means knocking off the minority leader, Mississippi hasn't elected a Democrat to an open seat since 1947, and in Georgia incumbent Saxby Chambliss has never lost to a Vietnam vet. These states are probably safe for the Republicans, as lately they've been focusing on playing defense, but any of these states could turn blue with high voter turnout.
So while the Democrats probably won't achieve the filibuster-proof majority this year, with the help of moderate Republicans, they will already have the votes they need to govern efficiently in 2009.
Dave Lombardo is a senior political science major who hopes the Democrats are thwarted so he can keep watching filibusters on CSPAN.