MN-Sen: I Don't Trust Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has been making the rounds on cable news today, no doubt working to raise in his profile for 2012 in the wake of his decision not to run for re-election in 2010.  During these interviews, he has suggested that he would not delay the seating of Minnesota's next Senator.  Election law experts appear unanimous that the Minnesota Supreme Court will affirm the victory of Senator-elect Al Franken.  The reason I don't trust Pawlenty is that he is leaving himself too much wiggle room.  Watch the exchange in the video below, from Pawlenty's appearance today on Fox News:

You know, Neil, if the Minnesota Supreme Court says, 'You sign the certificate' -- and there's not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court -- you know, that's my duty.

Now take into account this report from's Eric Black back in April:

In a series of email exchanges with Pawlenty's spokester, Brian McClung, I sought to clarify what level of discretion the guv was claiming over the issuance of the certificate. At first, McClung pointed out that there is no deadline in the law for the issuance of the certificate after the conclusion of the Contest Court process and state Supreme Court appeal. It sounded as if Pawlenty was claiming the right to indefinitely postpone the certificate.

Superficially, Pawlenty is telling us not to worry, that he's happy to sign on the dotted line.  But he also throws in the caveat "and there's not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court" which makes me wonder.

Having watched the state Supreme Court's proceedings on June 1 when they heard oral arguments from both campaigns, I have a very positive impression of the Court and of the Justices' attention to detail.  Expecting that they affirm Senator-elect Franken's victory, it would be proper of them to include an order for Pawlenty, in his role as Governor, to prepare and sign an election certificate.  But, given that his staff has noted that there's no time requirement attached, Pawlenty could very easily slow walk the certificate while Republican Norm Coleman seeks a stay or an injunction on the certificate from a federal court in advance of a federal appeal.  University of Minnesota's Professor Larry Jacobs explains:

But Jacobs still sees wiggle room here. "Signing it -- and how quickly you sign it -- those are two different things," Jacobs explained. "If Norm indicates that he's going to be filing in federal court, the Governor may just say, 'you know, I am gonna sign it, I'm just waiting to hear from my legal counsel that this is appropriate.'"

Further, if the state Supreme Court affirms Senator-elect Franken's victory but doesn't add in the explicit order to Pawlenty to prepare and sign the election certificate, then who knows!?  At the very least, Pawlenty's reassuring words are not all that reassuring, nor should they be given the wiggle room those words leave for Pawlenty.

Of course, if Pawlenty deliberately obstructs and delays after the state Supreme Court rules in Senator-elect Franken's favor, the U.S. Senate is still empowered to seat Senator-elect Franken (and Pawlenty's delay would likely give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the political impetus to move forward with Senator-elect Franken's seating), but that move still faces the threat of filibuster from Republicans.  If that were to happen, Democrats would likely need a couple of Republicans to buck their Party in the name of supporting the democratic process.  Hopefully this issue will be moot, but it's never too early for Democrats to reach out to more responsible Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Dick Lugar about their willingness to support Senator-elect Franken's seating should the eventuality arise.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

Tags: Al Franken, appeal, election certificate, Minnesota recount, MN-Sen, norm coleman, Tim Pawlenty (all tags)



Re: MN-Sen: I Don't Trust Tim Pawlenty

Key phrase: "if there's no appeal."

I doubt Pawlenty can be trusted, but in the meantime, let's give Norm a hint on his own:

Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched the "Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away" campaign. Each day Coleman refuses to concede, thousands of us are donating $1 to help progressives defeat Republicans in 2010.

It's working! Over $135,000 has already been raised! And now, we've "doubled down" and are aiming for $200,000.

Can you add to our great momentum by donating $1 a day?

Donations go to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which helps progressive candidates run effective campaigns and win. ices/contribution.aspx?X=Ded7FwPHDshrGtq FOE7vW9VcwgIMiaBGhXdSUiuRDlw%253d

by judybrowni 2009-06-03 05:54PM | 0 recs
Better link: dollar a day to make Norm Go Away ices/contribution.aspx?X=Ded7FwPHDshrGtq FOE7vW9VcwgIMiaBGhXdSUiuRDlw%3d

by judybrowni 2009-06-03 10:00PM | 0 recs
Don't trust him, trust his ambition

and Norm's too.

T-Paw has not yet had any of the negatives of Coleman v Franken splash on him yet. The key to T-Paw's success is his ability to be very conservative while sounding moderate and pulling back from the brink just enough to not make that clear. He knew that there was no way to win in Minnesota with a pure base strategy so he has always been very careful not to go that step too far. Now the unallotment pain and blame he will get will hurt him locally but really wont play nationally. Being seen as obstructing in the Franken case would play nationally and it would go right to the image he try's to maintain not the reality of his views. He really can't have that. He well understands that he will have to get the nomination but that, that is only the first step.

Also unlike most I think that while Norm has assembled and positioned the fuel he hasn't quite burned his bridge yet. If he was to fore go a federal appeal quickly after this next ruling came down, he would be able to keep it an instate matter and the relief felt could be translated into goodwill with a gracious congratulation to Al. The fight hasn't hurt him with the base, indeed it has help as he was always seen as something of a RINO. In reality he could get the Gov nomination and in the general play a more moderate contrast to Pawlenty. That would help Tim in a nomination battle down the road and with the Independence party may be just enough to squeak in as Governor. While not likely it is certainly possible. Even just the nomination would be better then where he is today.

by Judeling 2009-06-03 08:43PM | 0 recs
Interesting idea

I have been assuming that Coleman will almost certainly appeal to federal court after his Minnesotan options have run out, but you have a good point about the damage being relatively contained stateside up until this point.  

I don't, however, see him gaining another Minnesota office, even with our progressives' tendancy to shoot ourselves in the foot with third party candidates.  

As for Pawlenty, it's not a matter of trust.  He WON'T sign the certificate until ALL legal issues are resolved.  He's fully covered by our election law, and won't recieve much in the way of blowback.  Don't bother hanging your hat on him to make any decisive moves here.

by Dracomicron 2009-06-04 05:48AM | 0 recs
He's walking a tight-rope for sure

If he has a shot, he has to be "the moderate" that bring back independents, after Palin goes down like the graf Zepplin in 2012.

But, if he just seats Franken, the rabid base will foam at the mouth that he is a traitor to the cause (actually, they will foam more, which is hard to imagine...)

But, he better get good at the duplicity.

He's going to need it, to get through a presidential primary without burning most of his cross-over electoral appeal.

by WashStateBlue 2009-06-04 09:32AM | 0 recs


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