Before Recount, GOP Smearing Minnesota Sec Of State

The recount in the Minnesota Senate race hasn’t even begun yet, but already the GOP is working to delegitimize it in advance, by smearing the man who will run it as a partisan Democrat.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has been distributing to reporters a three-page “backgrounder” that attacks Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, for having spoken at the Democratic convention this summer, and for having “led a voter registration coalition that included ACORN,” among other alleged sins.

In the first vote count, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman currently holds an edge of around 200 votes over Democratic challenger Al Franken, though that number may continue to dwindle as more votes are counted. Either way, the margin is easily close enough to require a recount under state law, which will begin next week under Ritchie’s supervision.

Despite the backgrounder’s sometimes hysterical compilation of anti-Ritchie greatest hits — it claims that “the Communist Party USA Wrote Encouragingly Of His Candidacy,” citing an unsourced line from a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribue — there’s no evidence that Ritchie has ever used his role as the state’s top elections administrator to advantage Democrats.

But that likely misses the point of the GOP gambit, which appears to be to cast public doubt on the integrity of the recount process, thereby bolstering Coleman’s claim that’s he’s the rightful winner and that a recount is unnecessary — just the strategy pursued by George Bush’s campaign in Florida in 2000.

Indeed, Coleman’s shrinking lead in the first count has already prompted him to try to question the ongoing vote counting. A lawyer for the campaign yesterday told The Politico: “We’re not going to sit idly by, while mysterious, statistically dubious changes in vote totals take place after official government offices close.”