Image: Ted Stevens
Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
Sen. Ted Stevens is escorted out of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse October 27, 2008 in Washington.
By Chief White House correspondent and political director
NBC News
updated 10/28/2008 4:19:35 PM ET 2008-10-28T20:19:35

The Ted Stevens guilty verdict can be viewed through a variety of prisms.

These include its impact on the Democrats' drive for a filibuster-proof Senate (a 60-seat majority), the sullying mark of corruption on the Republican brand as a whole, and potential shifts to the GOP leadership pecking order.

Let's tackle these in reverse order.

First, it seems pretty unlikely Alaska voters will send a convicted Ted Stevens back to Capitol Hill. This means some true lions of the Senate are going to be clearing out this election cycle.

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Ted Stevens has been in the Senate for all or part of five decades; retiring Republicans Pete Domenici and John Warner have been in the upper chamber for all or part of four. Trent Lott resigned late last year, but should also be considered part of this "leaving lions" list.

Add the possible departures of Elizabeth Dole (a Dole has been in the Senate for all or part of the past five decades) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — and you’ve got a somewhat unrecognizable upper chamber.

The Senate Republicans are finding themselves in a similar spot to Senate Democrats in 1980. That’s when a handful of big names lost in a GOP landslide.

Video: Palin chastises Stevens These vacancies mean that there will be a leadership vacuum in the Senate, with a lot of younger players vying for dominance.

This power struggle will be one of the more interesting post-election stories to follow — particularly if McConnell loses in November.

As new Republican leaders emerge, keep your eye on Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and perhaps, John Thune of South Dakota.

Reputation woes?
The Stevens' verdict could also effect the party’s overall image.

Consider how devastating it must be for John McCain and a whole herd of GOP incumbents to see the words "Senator," "Republican,” “convicted," and "corruption" in the news just eight days before the election.

If it weren't for bad luck, the Republicans would have no luck at all this year.

These are some of those infamous "tea leaves" that many in the media force themselves to read.

It's just another link in the negative political news chain that's weighing down the GOP ahead of Nov. 4.

Perhaps some will see the sweeping out of a pork-loving Senator like Stevens as a good thing in the long term. But, don’t forgot, he’s the poster child for big government Republicanism — the very same phenomenon that caused the party to lose its "less government" conservative way over the past decade.

Interactive electoral map predictions

November prospects
As for the Democrats drive for 60, the Stevens' verdict means they’ll likely pick up at least five seats next week.

Alaska joins Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado and New Hampshire as the party's best nets. Another four are looking very good for the Democrats, including Oregon, North Carolina, Minnesota and Georgia.

Toss in Kentucky and Mississippi, and the Democrats actually have a one seat margin of error in their quest for 60.

One thing to keep in mind on Senate races — they all tend to move in the same direction.

We've seen this occur in the last five senate cycles and there's no reason it won't happen again on Tuesday.

Of course, do the Democrats really need 60 seats? Do they have a governing majority at 57 or 58? Probably, but the symbolic nature of 60 could be the sledgehammer on the nail of the GOP's 2008 coffin. 

Such a victory would also shed some negative light on the legacy of one George W. Bush.

Karl Rove was hoping the president would be an agent for positive change within the Republican Party. Instead, there was GOP unbuilding and unraveling.

So when Rove talked about realignment of his party, he may have been right. But with just days to go until Election Day, it looks like that shift wasn't in the anticipated direction.

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