Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Bye Al. Don't go away mad, just go away.

The recount is finished in Minnesota, and for the third time Norm Coleman has won over Al Franken. The threat that we saw in late November from Harry Reid that the Senate would decide the outcome of the election doesn't look like it will become a reality. Politico reports that some Democrats aren't hip to that idea in light of the Chambliss win in Georgia since the 60 seat majority is now out of their reach:

Republicans are increasingly optimistic that Senate Democrats will shy away from deciding the fate of the still too close-to-call Minnesota Senate race, now that the prospect of a 60-seat, filibuster-resistant majority has been eliminated.

Speculation that the Senate might determine the contest between GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken peaked after an attorney for Franken suggested in late November that the outcome could be decided by the Senate, and after Majority Leader Harry Reid for the first time publicly raised his concerns that some absentee ballots might not be included in the final count.

But that was before Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff victory by Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a development that dramatically altered the Democratic risk-to-return ratio. While the Constitution allows the Senate to be the ultimate arbiter of who serves in the chamber, there is far less political incentive to intervene now that a filibuster-resistant majority is no longer at stake.

"Saxby’s reelection ends the 2008 election for all intents and purposes. With Norm Coleman having won the Minnesota recount, the enthusiasm for overturning the results of an election will deflate rapidly,” said lobbyist Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman from Minnesota.

“The Franken campaign’s hopes that Minnesota would be the 60th seat are no longer relevant, and I suspect that moderate Democratic voices in the Senate will begin pouring cold water on the Franken-Reid effort to drag this matter onto the floor of the United States Senate," he said.

The value of having Franken as the 59th Democratic vote would have to be balanced against the distracting and poisonous partisan battle that is likely to ensue from his selection — a clash that would dominate media coverage, force senators to take a tough vote and threaten the chamber’s ability to move forward on the Obama administration agenda.

“If they do that, it would be like detonating a bomb on the Senate floor. I shudder to think what the partisan consequences would be if they refused to seat Coleman, if he was leading,” said Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier, an expert on Minnesota politics.

“This would be very unpopular in Minnesota if the Senate began playing partisan games. Minnesotans don’t want this continuing to go on, and don’t want the Senate to get involved,” he added.

Several Senate Democratic aides insist that the Senate might weigh in. They contend that while it's not the preferred choice, Democrats could take up the matter depending on how court challenges play out and what the outlook of the race is.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the majority leader would “wait and see how the process plays out” before making any decisions.

“The only thing we are interested in is making sure each and every vote is counted and the integrity of the process,” said Manley.

Republicans have already signaled that if the Senate gets involved, the fight will be messy.

“Al Franken’s argument that it would be a good idea to have a hugely partisan floor fight during Obama’s first 100 days as president disappeared with the Democrats’ loss in Georgia,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Rebecca Fisher. “Moderate Democrats don’t want to go back home and say they chose Al Franken to their constituents.”

It doesn't help the Democrats at all to drag this out to a partisan floor fight in the Senate. Coleman leads Franken by over 250 votes. It's virtually the same result since election night, give or take a few votes, but Franken has NEVER lead in any of the counts. He lost the initial count. He lost the recount, and he's lost the hand recount.

If the Senate steps in on this particular election, and they choose Franken even though he hasn't won any of the counts, they will have cost themselves their majority in the midterms. The people of this nation won't stand for them cheating their way to a 59th seat, and Reid will be the most vulnerable Democrat come 2010 as the RNSC sets it's sights on him the way they did with Tom Daschle back in 2004.

Publius II


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