If you haven’t been following Eric Kleefeld’s bang-up coverage of the Minnesota Senate election saga at TPMDC (come to think of it, this fiasco pre-dates the launch of TPMDC and dates back to our TPM Election Central days — just another reminder that here it is almost March and the results of the Nov. 4 election are still unresolved), then you may not be aware of where things are headed. But there’s been an ominous turn in Minnesota, so let me bring you up to speed.
In a nutshell, Norm Coleman has lost but refuses to concede and now wants to throw out the original election, the one he lost, and hold a new one.
Coleman was ahead after the initial tally on election night, but then found himself 225 votes behind Al Franken after the state-mandated recount. So Coleman sued to have the results of the election overturned by a court, primarily (though not exclusively) on the grounds that certain absentee ballots were counted that shouldn’t have been and others weren’t counted but should have been. That’s most of what the twists and turns of the legal dispute have been about (a political junkies dream, really).
But five weeks into the election contest trial, the court has repeatedly issued rulings that narrow Coleman’s chances of either collecting enough newly counted ballots or throwing out already counted ballots — or some combination of the two. So in recent days, the Coleman legal team has become increasingly shrill in its attacks not just on the court but on the entire electoral process in Minnesota, getting closer every day to outright calling for the Nov. 4 election be declared null and void and a whole new election be held between Coleman and Franken. And now Coleman himself has suggested that a do-over election may be necessary.
In the background of course is the fact that the longer the legal dispute drags on, the longer Senate Democrats are denied an important 59th vote, in the person of Al Franken. But let’s not allow that to distract from the fact that Coleman (and the GOP) still desperately wants to win, and has shown himself willing to do just about anything to get there.
Throwing your hands up and saying let’s just call the election a tie and do it again is the desperate last act of a losing candidate. That this ploy requires attacking the entire electoral process and the people who conduct elections in the state is just a sign of his desperation. But apparently even the Coleman camp is starting to see that a do-over election is the only avenue still open to Coleman that might, albeit remotely, allow him to return to his seat.
For years, and certainly most loudly since the Florida debacle of 2000, Republicans have made ill-founded election hijinks charges against Democrats. But Norm Coleman, with the support of national Republicans (keep in mind that one of Coleman’s lawyers is Ben Ginsberg, the Bush campaign’s top lawyer in 2000) is now poised to try to pull off what would be perhaps a bigger election robbery than Bush v. Gore: toss out the nearly three million votes cast on one of the most-anticipated election days in this nation’s history in favor of a much smaller special do-over election. It’s breath-taking. Yet for some reason this story still seems to be flying below the national political radar.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.