Monday, November 17, 2008

Officials have finished recanvassing the three million ballots cast in the Minnesota Senate election, and Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman leads Democrat Al Franken by slightly more than 200 votes. On Thursday, Mr. Franken filed suit to see data on the rejected ballots which were not admitted for the recount.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, has chosen a canvassing board that includes himself, two state Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and two county judges. Tomorrow the certification board for the state is to certify the ballots that have been counted. After that, an automatic manual recount is to begin with lawyers from both campaigns present.

A victory for Mr. Franken is critical to Democratic hopes of winning 60 Senate seats - enough to cut off debate without Republican votes. Democrats have won 57 seats, and would reach 60 with victories in three Senate races that have yet to be decided - in Minnesota, Alaska and Georgia. The Minnesota recount is expected to take almost one month.

If Mr. Franken loses the election, it will be due at least in part to an unpleasant personality that alienated voters. Thirty-one percent of voters had a very unfavorable view of the comedian turned politician during the election, compared with 24 percent who had the same view of Mr. Coleman. In Minnesota, a state in which Barack Obama won 54 percent of the vote, defeating John McCain by more than 10 points, Mr. Franken’s proclivity for bizarre behavior and strident attacks helped ensure that Mr. Coleman remained competitive to the end. Mr. Franken criticized Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito by stating that “being a racist and a sexist was a good calling card for the Reagan administration.” Mr. Franken’s comments on “virtual intercourse” in an article written for Playboy Magazine years ago proved damaging to his Senate chances, as did charges that he had failed to pay taxes in the past.

In addition to Mr. Franken’s behavior, Mr. Coleman’s bid for re-election was helped by strong constituent service and his tenacity in winning federal grants for his constituents. Mr. Coleman, who switched from the Democrat-Farm-Labor Party to the GOP in 1996, was also aided by his record as mayor of St. Paul from 1994 to 2002, where he was credited with revitalizing and attracting new business to the state capital. Although a moderate Republican, Mr. Coleman won plaudits from conservatives for his leadership role in holding the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan accountable in the oil-for-food scandal, his pro-life record and opposition to “sanctuary cities” for illegal aliens.

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