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If Roland Burris had fully disclosed to the Illinois House Panel his frequent contacts with Rod Blagjojevich’s coterie, and that he had been hit up by Blago’s brother for money, would he have been appointed to the Senate in the first place? Or would the opposition in the Senate — which, granted, was always on questionable legal footing — have gelled to the point where he was denied appointment to the seat?

My instinct is that it would have been pretty close. The fiction that Burris’ appointment was a one-off event that could somehow be compartmentalized from Blago’s attempts at bribery may have been critical to the Democrats’ ability to do the politically expedient thing and allow Burris to take his seat. With this revelation, it’s no longer possible for the Democrats to suspend their disbelief.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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