What does it mean to claim victory before others declare you the winner? I think it's another symptom of our bruising, in-your-face political culture.

The Montana Senate seat has been called for Tester, the Democrat. That leaves us at 50D-49R, waiting on Virginia (and/or Dick Cheney) to break the possible tie.

Here is a link to Jim Webb's victory speech last night. (Note that S.R. "Macaca" Sidarth is on stage behind him).

Several TV commentators last night called it bad form for Webb to have claimed victory ahead of George Allen's concession, which hasn't come and may not come until after a recount. They also raised questions about Claire McCaskill, in Missouri, who made a victory speech before Senator Jim Talent could concede, as well as Martin O'Malley, who didn't get Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich's call until this morning.

Why couldn't they just wait?

I think it goes back, like so many things, to Florida 2000.

When the music stopped six years ago, George W. Bush was ahead by about 500 votes -- a lead he held onto right into the history books. His team wanted to stop the recounts before the numbers could shift, knowing that a lead for Al Gore, however temporary, would alter both the perception and the dynamics of the aftermath.

Today's candidates look to seize the upper hand as soon as they can. No matter how close the contest, the person who is down will always look a little bit whiny when it comes to talk about recounts and all the rest, so you want to avoid becoming that person. Even if you wouldn't be able to help it in the end.