Norm Coleman: I’d Have Beaten Franken In ’08 If Groping Photo Had Come Out

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The man that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) defeated in his 2008 race told TPM Friday that one of the closest Senate races in history likely would have gone his way had Franken’s sexual harassment been public at the time.

“You’ve got to believe that photo is worth more than 312 votes,” former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) told TPM Friday morning, highlighting the exact margin of his 2008 loss to Franken a day after newscaster Leeann Tweeden came forward to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct in 2006 — and included photo evidence.

Coleman declined to further discuss the 2008 race and the current allegations, saying the picture of Franken “speaks for itself” and that he didn’t want to “sound like sour grapes.”

But the former senator is almost certainly right that he would have remained in the Senate if the accusations against Franken had come out before the election.

Coleman lost to Franken after one of the most bitter Senate races in recent memory — and an arduous legal battle afterwards that lasted eight full months, depriving Democrats of Franken’s vote in the Senate for the busy beginning of President Obama’s presidency.

Coleman initially led Franken on election night by 726 votes, a margin that shrank to 215 votes on an official count from the Minnesota secretary of state. The disputed election results then headed to a hotly contested recount — where Franken prevailed by a scant 225 votes. Coleman fought those results in court for months, eventually conceding in late June after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected his challenge to the results.

But if the scandal that’s currently enveloping Franken had broken then, it’s hard to see how he would have defeated Coleman almost a decade ago, a result that would have deprived Democrats of a key Senate vote years.

Franken had to apologize during that campaign for controversial jokes he’d made in previous years — including a number of rape jokes.

“The things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room, and the people in this state, that they can’t count on me to be a champion for women and for all people of Minnesota in this campaign and in the Senate. I’m sorry for that,” he said during the 2008 Democratic-Farmer-Labor state convention.

The allegations against Franken has quickly spurred a Senate Ethics Committee investigation that has the potential to end Franken’s career. And Tweeden’s damning photo is tailor-made for a campaign ad that could have ended Franken’s chances at the Senate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.
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