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Tennessee’s incredibly close 4th congressional district race, visualized

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and his wife, Amy. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

On Thursday, we marveled at the resilience of Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), running close in his bid for a third term in Congress despite a slew of revelations that, for most candidates, would be career-enders. But in Tennessee's 4th district, it appeared, DesJarlais would be able to run competitively with challenger Jim Tracy.

We had no idea, though, just how competitive it would be.

On Friday morning, with all precincts reporting but absentee ballots still to be counted, the Associated Press had DesJarlais in the lead by a margin of 34,779 to 34,746. Do the subtraction, and you will see that we're talking about 33 votes. Do the division, and you'll see that this means that 0.047 percent of the total vote count is what separates DesJarlais and Tracy. Zero-point-zero-four-seven percent. That's not a million-to-one shot or anything, but it's a pretty rare margin in politics.

Let's put it into perspective. The chart below shows all of the votes that have been counted -- and the votes by which DesJarlais leads.


This is the kind of race that a candidate cites when he or she says "every vote counts" -- and with good reason. Not all races are this close -- not all races are even close -- but you never know when you'll be one of the 33 people that makes the difference.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

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