Minn. Court: Al Franken is the Senate Winner

Big news, reported by the Associated Press:

A Minnesota court confirmed Monday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman.

The ruling isn't expected to be the final word because Coleman previously announced plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court. He has 10 days to do so. That appeal could mean weeks more delay in seating Minnesota's second senator.

After a statewide recount and seven-week trial, Franken stands 312 votes ahead. Franken actually gained more votes from the election challenge than Coleman, the candidate who brought it.

This ruling wasn't unexpected -- but it's still big news. Norm Coleman's path to overturning the results of November's Senate election, in which he was turned out of office by the voters of his state, is becoming narrow to non-existent, and it's only a matter of time until virtually everyone aside from the most hackish of the Republican hacks joins the bandwagon already including leading conservative voices calling on Coleman to give up his quixotic fight and allow the rightful winner of the Minnesota Senate election, Democrat Al Franken, take his seat.

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No, Blocking Franken Isn't a Win-Win for Pawlenty

Some convoluted reasoning from Chris Cillizza:

Seen through the 2012-only lens, Pawlenty's current position [as "staunch defender of Coleman's right to continue his legal appeals despite his 312 vote deficit"] looks more like a win-win.

Assuming he doesn't plan to run for reelection, Pawlenty can refuse to sign the election certificate for Franken -- if Coleman wants to take the legal fight federal -- and continue to raise his national profile by arguing (in his low key, inoffensive way) on a variety of televisions outlets that he is simply trying to ensure no legitimate votes are left uncounted, a GREAT issue for him in the eyes of GOP base voters.

And, if Coleman ends his appeal after if he loses at the state Supreme Court level, Pawlenty has seen his national profile raised as a defender of voters' rights without any serious backlash in the state.

"It's a net positive for him, especially nationally," said one senior Republican strategist. "He has a solid position: He has consistently said he wants to see the legal process completely played out to ensure no voter is disenfranchised and the actual winner is sent to DC."

To this point, Pawlenty has nicely played out a tricky political situation to his benefit, a deftness that speaks well of his potential as a national candidate in 2012.

Only inside the Beltway could it be believed that service as an obstructionist hyper-partisan hack forwards a politician's presidential ambitions. Just ask Bob Dole how easy it was for him to shake off the "hatchet man" label bestowed on him in 1971 by fellow Republican Senator William Saxbe or live down his own comments in the 1976 Vice Presidential debates about 1.6 million Americans dying in "Democrat wars" of the 20th century. (He was still fighting off this public perception during the 1996 general election.)

No, while Tim Pawlenty plays his partisan fiddle in the Minnesota Senate recount symphony, his state has been metaphorically burning with only one Senator for months. It's not as if Norm Coleman's chances of overtaking Al Franken's lead were great or even mediocre at the get-go of these seemingly unending legal proceedings -- through which time Pawlently has toed his party's line to the detriment of his state, which is without half of its representation in the Senate. By this point, Coleman's hopes are close to nil, yet Pawlenty still continues to flak for the former Senator and the Republican Party.

I'm not suggesting that being a partisan hack is necessarily a bad thing for a career politician like Pawlenty in a Republican primary. But to suggest that placing party over state and country is a "win-win" for Pawlenty ignores a key fact about American elections -- the primary isn't the only election, and the excessively partisan don't tend to do well in general elections. So while Cillizza might not believe it, there are real downsides to Pawlenty's current course of action.

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National Review: Time for Coleman to Give Up

It's not often I agree with The National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, but perhaps once every other blue moon it happens. Ponnuru writes:

I think it's time for [Norm Coleman] to give up this fight.

With today's news that Al Franken's lead is actually growing, narrowing Norm Coleman's already extremely narrow path to overtaking Franken, Ponnuru's right. I'm surprised to hear him say this, and I'm not holding my breath for other conservatives to say the same thing (though who would be the next to chime in on this -- David Brooks?). Nevertheless, a semblance of reality from The National Review doesn't often happen.

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Al Franken's Lead Grows in Recount

Big news:

Democrat Al Franken today extended his lead over Republican Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate election, following the counting of about 350 formerly rejected absentee ballots this morning by a three-judge panel.

Unofficially, Franken took nearly 200 of the ballots, while Coleman added a little more than 100. The ballots added about 90 to Franken's recount lead, enlarging his margin over Coleman to more than 300.

The result makes it even more likely that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, Franken will prevail in the election lawsuit that Coleman filed in January to contest the Democrat's 225-vote recount lead. The court has not said when it will issue a final decision in the case.

With Norm Coleman's legal efforts in state courts largely unsuccessful (he still reserves the right to appeal to the state Supreme Court, though the current proceedings have dealt his candidacy serious setbacks) and his hopes in the federal courts even thinner, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel -- may be -- for Al Franken. More as we hear it, though...

Update [2009-4-7 13:27:9 by Todd Beeton]:Thanks, Norm! As a result of the former Senator's lawsuit, these ballots were opened and counted and the result reinforces what we've seen since election day: the more votes that are counted, the more Al Franken's lead grows. Tell Norm to give it up.

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MN-Sen: Is the Election Wrapping Up?

It appears so, says Eric Kleefeld:

Norm Coleman just got a Christmas present from the Minnesota Supreme Court: A giant lump of coal.

In a unanimous decision handed down just now, the state Supremes denied Coleman any relief in a lawsuit he was waging to deal with allegations of double-counted absentee ballots, which his campaign says have given an illegitimate edge to Al Franken. The Coleman campaign was seeking to switch 25 selected precincts back to their Election Night totals, which would undo all of Franken's recount gains in those areas and put Coleman back in the lead.

The court, however, sided with the Franken camp's lawyers in saying that a question like this should be reserved for a post-recount election contest proceeding, as the proper forum to discover evidence -- and which also has a burden of proof that heavily favors the certified winner.

Simply put, Coleman is in very big trouble right now. With Al Franken leading by 47 votes, this lawsuit was Coleman's best shot at coming from behind. And it just failed, making a Franken win nearly a foregone conclusion when this recount finishes up in early January.

The AP writes that "The court's decision leaves Coleman with fewer ways to make up ground in the recount."The Star Tribune similarly ledes "A state Supreme Court ruling Wednesday narrowed the options available for Sen. Norm Coleman to erase a slim lead held by DFLer Al Franken in the Minnesota election dispute."

In short, this looks like a very positive development for those hoping to see Al Franken in the Senate -- not the end of the story, but a big step towards the progressive activist entering the upper chamber of Congress.

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