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“Coming out of an election like this, the losing party would naturally see a dip in its popularity. The challenge is going to be whether this is going to be a short-term dip or a long-term dip,” said Ron Carey, Minnesota Republican Party chairman.

Despite heavy election losses, the Republicans voted to keep their top congressional leadership, with Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio as House minority leader and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky remaining as minority leader. But new faces were put in other leadership posts, including the House and Senate campaign committees that will be in charge of recruiting candidates for 2010.

Mr. Boehner won another term as leader this week by saying, “America needs us to be the party of reform again.”

But on Thursday, a bipartisan collection of senators used floor time to speak glowingly of Stevens, affectionately known as “Uncle Ted” among his constituents.

Sens. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, and Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, wiped their face with handkerchiefs during and after Stevens speech.

“After a long, long time in politics, one finally comes to understand that the point of it all is in helping people; Ted Stevens has helped a lot of people,” said Mr. Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history. “Bless your heart Ted. I love you.”

Mr. McConnell added: “It’s safe to say without any fear of contradiction that no senator in the history of the United States has ever done more for his state than Sen. Ted Stevens.”

Yet Stevens’ public philanthropy for the 49th state often has been a source of controversy.

In 2005, he tried to steer more than $200 million for the construction of an enormous bridge linking mainland Alaska to a sparsely populated island. The infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark eventually was axed but not before generating significant criticism and becoming a shorthand symbol of Washington’s pork-barrel spending.

But Stevens didn’t apologize for his passion for securing pet spending projects for Alaska.

“Where there was nothing but tundra and forest today there are airports, roads, ports, water and sewer systems, hospitals and clinics,” he said Thursday. Alaska “is no longer an impoverished territory. Alaska is a great state.”

The Alaska race wasn’t the only Senate race that wasn’t decided immediately after the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

Minnesota’s first-term Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leads Democratic challenger Al Franken by slightly more than 200 votes, which triggered a mandatory manual recount that began Wednesday of the almost 2.9 million ballots cast in the race. And in Georgia, first-term Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is trying to hold off Democratic challenger Jim Martin in a runoff vote to be held Dec. 2.

The two races will determine whether the Democrats can build a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate.

A political battle also is brewing for the Republican National Committee chairmanship, though party officials said Thursday that no candidate has emerged as the clear front-runner.

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