Franken stays ahead, but his lead is miniscule

In honor of Franken holding his lead for two whole days now, I'm replacing my "Coleman Lead in MN Recount" graph with its opposite: a "Franken Lead" graph. The numbers, of course, are exactly the same; they're just flipped. The Star Tribune has projected that after all withdrawn challenges are included, Franken will lead by 48 votes.

frankenlead_day18

48 votes out of 2.9 million! This election has really been crazy. Norm Coleman started with an almost infinitesimally-small lead, and now Al Franken has even a smaller lead yet. Coleman's initial lead was less than 1/100 of 1 percent. Now that Franken leads by just 48 votes, his lead is less than 1/500 of 1 percent.

frankenlead_pct_day18

To me, Franken's sliver of a lead means three things:

  1. Republicans will try to use Franken's hardly-resounding lead to cast doubt on Minnesota's electoral process. Despite the fact that the Canvassing Board leans to the right politically, right-wing muck-throwers like John Lott will continue to claim that it somehow favored Franken [warning: reading Lott's piece may make you stupider].
  2. Anything could still happen. With a lead so tiny, any ruling in Coleman's favor -- no matter how minute -- could tip the race back to Coleman, perhaps by an even smaller margin.
  3. We're going to court. If there were any chance that the final results would stay out of court, I'm pretty sure it vanished along with triple-digit leads. With such a tiny margin of victory, there's no way we will avoid litigation on any and all issues that could possibly lead to a 50-vote swing.

Originally posted to the Twin Cities Daily Liberal. More on the recount every day at the Daily Liberal.

MN-SEN is still too close to call

colemanlead_day15After a day where Norm Coleman's challenges performed abysmally, his lead dropped to a paltry 5 votes, according to the Star Tribune's numbers. Today, there are still over 500 votes to count. If yesterday's rates were to continue, Franken could gain over 400 votes.

However, there's reason to expect that Coleman will fare better today. Yesterday, the Coleman campaign withdrew approximately 200 challenges, but they did so too late for those ballots to be removed from the Canvassing Board's materials. As a result, the withdrawn challenges were all voted on by the Canvassing Board anyway -- when the board was told that a challenge had been withdrawn, they simply voted to reject the challenge without debate. This means that their withdrawn ballots were included in the day's totals, while Franken's withdrawn ballots have not yet been included in official statistics.

Speaking of withdrawn ballots, they are what is making the result of this race impossible to predict. Each campaign has withdrawn thousands of challenges, which have yet to be tabulated and included in the official totals. Without these votes being counted, Franken's lead today will be inflated. Here's why: The Franken campaign originally challenged 3,280 ballots, compared to Coleman's 3,375. However, Franken withdrew many more ballots than Coleman. That means approximately 2,350 uncounted Coleman challenges, and 2,865 uncounted Franken challenges. That means Coleman could have as many as 500 votes more than it appears.

This uncertainty is why I continue to turn to the Star Tribune's Ballot Challengeprojections. The projections -- a crowdsourced effort in which thousands of readers voted on each ballot -- included the many challenges which have now been withdrawn. It appears the Star Tribune has been updating their projections as the Canvassing Board's rulings come in. They now project that Franken leads by 89 votes. The question is whether that Franken lead will hold through today's challenges. Here's what the Strib says about their projections:

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More good news for Franken, but is it good enough?

I got some great responses from yesterday's diary, so I'll keep 'em coming for the next few days.

Al Franken had another good day in front of the Canvassing Board yesterday, but since I realized a problem with the current vote estimates yesterday, I'm feeling less certain that Franken's a shoo-in. He's still got a great chance, but it's by no means a lock. That's been the way it's gone through this whole recount -- one day I feel good about Franken's chances, the next day not so good. I'm sure that pattern will continue.

Franken continued his momentum yesterday, picking up another 36 votes according to The UpTake. Overall, Franken picked up 63 votes out of 415 challenges,  a success rate of 15% That's very high, considering that most observers expected the vast majority of challenges to be rejected. What remains to be seen is whether Coleman will fare similarly well.

colemanlead_day14Coleman's "official" lead grew again yesterday, as the Canvassing Board dealt almost exclusively with Franken challenges, the majority of which were overturned. It now stands at about 363, but that number belies a big problem for Coleman. The board has now finished counting Franken challenges, and will now turn to Coleman's challenges, which number over 1,000. Expect Coleman's lead to plummet over the next two days. Franken had a success rate of 15 percent. Even if Coleman wins 20 percent of challenges, that will result in a net gain of 600 votes for Franken. Coleman will thus need to have far greater success than Franken to remain in the lead.

There's one more twist, though: The challenges withdrawn by each campaign have yet to be included in the totals. The Franken campaign originally challenged 3,280 ballots, compared to Coleman's 3,375. However, Franken withdrew many more ballots than Coleman. That means approximately 2,350 uncounted Coleman challenges, and 2,865 uncounted Franken challenges. Coleman's lead is likely much closer to 863 than 363. It still looks tough for Franken to pull ahead.

There are still two reasons for hope, though.

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Recount math looks great for Franken

NOTE: These numbers are all estimates, as I don't think anyone has a really firm grip of where things stand by now.

After the first day of the Canvassing Board hearing challenges, Al Franken is picking up a surprising amount of ground. The UpTake's Mike McIntee estimates that out of 160 challenges yesterday, the Franken campaign gained 27 votes, for a success rate of 17% That's very high, considering that most observers expected the vast majority of challenges to be rejected. What remains to be seen is whether Coleman will fare similarly well.

What nobody knows, of course, is exactly where we stood at the end of the first phase of the recount. Estimates ranged from a 192-vote Coleman lead to a 4-vote Franken lead. Team Franken has claimed that if all challenges were rejected, they would be up by 4 votes. If true, they now have a double-digit lead.

colemanlead-day13Coleman's "official" lead grew yesterday, because the board yesterday dealt exclusively with Franken challenges, the majority of which were overturned. Because the Franken challenges are all being handled first, expect Coleman's lead to skyrocket, and then plummet just as fast. His lead now stands at about 263, but that number belies a big problem.

If Franken continues to win challenges at the current rate, his remaining 300 challenges should result in about 250 more votes for Coleman, putting him at about a 450-vote lead. The problem with a 450-vote lead is that Coleman has challenged about 1,000 ballots. Even if Coleman wins 20 percent of challenges, that will result in a net gain of 600 votes for Franken. Coleman will thus need to have far greater success than Franken to remain in the lead.

Adapted from the Twin Cities Daily Liberal. There's more recount coverage at the Daily Liberal every day.

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If the Dems hit 60 seats, then what?

I'm feeling like playing devil's advocate today, so I thought I'd throw out a question: is the Democratic party ready to be 100 percent in charge during of one of the largest financial crises in the history of our nation?

We've been itching to get back into power for years, but now, ironically, we will find ourselves taking control of the Presidency, the House, and the Senate at the worst possible time. With the economy in turmoil, the buck will stop with the Democrats. Beginning November 5th, the Republicans will begin painting the economic crisis as a Democratic failure. As the party in power beginning in January, the Democrats will have very little time to start making progress toward a solution and spare themselves the voters' wrath.

Let's be honest: the only question left about the 2008 elections is whether the Democrats get 60 seats, or only 58. It's time to start thinking about governing with an eye toward gaining, not losing, during the midterm elections. Given the mess in our country, we need to start talking strategy now. So, I have two questions for you.

1. What should the Democrats do to turn the economy around?
2. What is the best strategy to avoid getting the Republicans' political garbage dumped on us once we're in power?

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John McCain: A crying shame, the fall of an American hero

I used to have a lot of respect for John McCain.

On top of his war service, McCain built a Senate career as a bipartisan, moderate legislator who got things done. In 2000, he campaigned as the moderate, reasonable alternative to George W. Bush, and got steamrolled by the Bush/Rove war machine for his efforts. He deserves praise and thanks for the American people for his career up through 2000.

But he learned the wrong lesson from his defeat. He learned that the only way to win the Republican nomination was to sell his soul to George W. Bush's conservative base. And so, over the past few years, he worked on transforming himself from a moderate into a conservative. He has drifted steadily rightward, until we could no longer even recognize him. Sadly, he is no longer the reformer or the moderate he used to be. McCain of 2008 has said things and adopted positions that would have horrified McCain of 2000.

Now, just two months before the election, John McCain has finally completed his transformation from a maverick, reform-minded moderate to another extremist right-winger under the tutelage of Karl Rove. His graduation prize for completing his personal transformation was the support of the extremist Christian Right. The NY Times reported a couple of days ago that McCain was looking to the Christian Right to save his campaign, but this year, that's unlikely. He can't win this year by simply turning out the base, and he's lost his chance to appeal to moderates.

That's what's so ironic about the whole campaign: after years of hard work to break with his moderate past, it turns out that he needs that legacy to win the election. Unfortunately, it's too late. John McCain would have had better luck sticking with his principles. The 2008 campaign is a sad end to a once-great career.

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MN-SEN: Franken's primary challenger will assure a Coleman victory

I understand primary challenger Priscilla Lord Faris's argument. I really do. Al Franken is not a good candidate; fine, I can appreciate that. Hell, I've been saying it for months. But the irony behind Faris's campaign is that she's not helping herself or the DFL party; she's running a scorched-earth campaign that is doing more than Norm Coleman ever could to assure his victory.

According to her website, here's why Faris is running:

Make no mistake:  I am in this race to win.  My candidacy is 100 percent aimed at replacing Norm Coleman this November with a U.S. senator whose legislative and policy positions are consistent with the views and priorities of most Minnesotans...

I am concerned that the Franken campaign has squandered a lead and fallen behind in the polls even as Barack Obama has opened up a wide double-digit lead.  All the facts are showing that he is way behind in the polls and he has had two years & millions of dollars to work nonstop as a campaigner. The Washington Post has downgraded Franken's chances of winning as the lowest.  As a Minnesotan, I couldn't sit by and let this happen.  This is why I am running for US Senate and intend to represent the values of my fellow Minnesotans.


But with her tactics, how does Faris believe she could possibly win the election? Her scorched-earth campaign will surely turn off most DFLers, while doing nothing to attract moderates or swing voters. Her  strategy has been to use any means necessary to attack Franken. When I say "any means necessary," I mean she has sold her soul to the very people she claims to be running against. She has fed an endless stream of nasty press releases to Republican blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed, and even appeared in a Norm Coleman ad. She's going to the only people who will listen to her; surely she has to understand why they're so eager to amplify her views. Blue Man in a Red District also has some great information on some of her other shady connections.

I can't help but wonder: what is Faris's true motivation? And if she is really interested in beating Norm Coleman, how in the world will she accomplish that after months of relying on Republicans for support?

By the way, here's Faris's appearance in the Coleman ad. Her own negative ads are really helping Coleman to stretch his own budget.

Crossposted to the Twin Cities Daily Liberal

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McCain harps on Obama "tire pressure" aside

John McCain, desperately trying to seize upon the one topic he has some leverage with, derided an aside of Barack Obama's regarding gas conservation. He and MN Governor Tim Pawlenty seized on a comment Obama made that maintaining proper tire pressure could help save gas. Clearly, this is pretty lame. McCain is taking a single line from Obama's comments out of context. That's pretty typical political hack work, but nothing unusual.

But check out this insight from David Brauer at MinnPost, a Minnesota news site:

According to fueleconomy.gov, gas use drops 3.3 percent when tire pressure is right, offering a bigger savings than, say, offshore drilling.
Brauer has a fantastic point here. Recently, on my personal blog, I showed that that the conservative energy plan would save us $1 per barrel of oil in 2030. John McCain should avoid taking Obama's comments out of context when even Obama's small ideas pack more of a punch than McCain's major policy initiatives.

Crossposted to the Twin Cities Daily Liberal

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MN-SEN: After negative ad, Coleman changes tactics

Remember Norm Coleman's nasty ad last week? Well, I predicted people wouldn't be fooled, and it looks like I was right. After engaging in a brief round of character assassination, Coleman returned with a heartwarming human interest story, a far cry from the negative campaigning I was expecting to continue throughout the race.

I can't help but wonder why Coleman decided to back off. Has Coleman's internal polling shown a negative response to his nasty politics? His negative ad was immediately followed by a great ad from Franken; are Coleman's pollsters finally seeing a rise in the polls for Franken?

This is pure speculation, but I'm looking forward to the next round of polls to see if Coleman knows something we don't yet.

Here's the text of Coleman's new ad, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press's Political Animal:

"Wyatt was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, which is a form of childhood kidney cancer in February of 2004. On a routine screening, they found a spot on his right kidney. We knew that there needed to be more research done for Wilms' Tumor, because the drugs that we were using were drugs that were developed in the 1960s. We attended a meeting for CureSearch, and within two hours of being in the meeting, we knew that there was no funding for childhood cancer. We had eight meetings that day, and Senator Coleman's office was the last meeting of the day. We knew before we left his office that he was going to help us do something about the lack of funding for Childhood Cancer. And then in the months after that, Senator Coleman authored the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. Senator Coleman is a lifeline for every family of a child who has been diagnosed with cancer. He's not just my Senator. He's my friend."

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MN-SEN: Does Norm Coleman really care about gas prices?

It might not surprise you that the answer is "no." He doesn't care about your price at the pump; all he cares about is increasing profits for the oil companies that have donated $210,000 to his campaign. That's the only possible reason for some of his ridiculous votes and fuzzy math.

Let's look at his ridiculous votes first. Coleman's campaign said he "voted against last week's [proposal to reduce oil speculation] because it lacked an offshore provision." Let me see if I understand this correctly: Coleman believes that oil speculation is hurting Americans, but he won't fix it unless we allow more drilling to increase oil companies' windfall profits. Clearly, Coleman's not being motivated by a desire to help Minnesotans.

Now, in the fuzzy math department, Coleman has essentially admitted that his offshore drilling plan is useless. He has criticized Al Franken's plan to sell 50 million barrels from the strategic oil reserve between now and election day, saying it would make only an "incremental difference."But Franken's plan would provide at least 30% more oil per day than Coleman's plan for offshore drilling. I've explained previously why conservatives' plans to lower gas prices are useless, and Coleman's is no better.

Now, I'll admit I don't believe Franken's plan will be helpful. Why? Because adding small amounts of oil to the supply in a global market hardly causes prices to budge. The exact same principle applies to Coleman's plan to dramatically expand drilling, just to produce an amount of oil he has already admitted will not have an impact on prices. So, if Coleman admits that this won't lower prices, why is he so focused on offshore drilling? You guessed it: $210,000 is a lot of money.

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