Does Norm Coleman Still Have a Chance?

By Caitlin Taylor

Feb 23, 2009 11:36am

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: More than three months after Election Day — and a month after the state recount technically ended and the legal drama began — here is the situation as we understand it in the final race to be settled from the 2008 campaign: First, Democrat Al Franken holds a 225-vote lead that hasn’t budged since the end of the formal recount and the start of the legal battles over the Minnesota Senate seat. Second, Republican Norm Coleman has lost a series of court rulings where he has sought to expand the number of previously rejected absentee ballots that will be ultimately counted — his only real shot at making up the gap. Third, the race continues to play out as a national cause celebre on both sides. Fourth, Franken appears very likely to become a United States senator — but that could still take a while. Coleman’s window for pulling off a victory looks like it’s closing by the day. But it won’t be entirely shut until all of the legal options are exhausted, and there’s evidence that Coleman’s legal team is already preparing for state and federal appeals. The Minneapolis Star Tribune today takes stock of the race and concludes that, as the headline states, Coleman’s chances have “diminished” as a result of court rulings. “The three judges hearing the case have been only partly receptive to Coleman’s bid to expand the field of ballots as he seeks more votes, and they brushed aside his claim of systemic problems with Minnesota elections,” Pat Doyle writes. “Coleman once wanted to examine up to 11,000 rejected absentee ballots in hope that enough might eventually be opened and counted to help him overtake Franken. Now he’s looking at opening perhaps a couple of thousand ballots. And the number could turn out to be even smaller.” But in terms of bringing finality to the race, the Coleman camp seems to be in this for the long haul. With a critical 59th Democratic Senate seat at stake, the Republican National Committee is helping bankroll the legal efforts, and GOP senators are continuing to solicit donations for Coleman. The Coleman legal team, meanwhile, has been openly questioning the reasoning employed by the three-judge panel — moves Democrats say are designed to lay the groundwork for on appeal, and to keep Republicans engaged enough in the effort to keep the money flowing. Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote a memo today pointing out perceived contradictions in the three-judge panel’s rulings. It reads like someone is preparing the legal briefs for an appeal. “As a former Texas Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice, I find the legal quagmire created by the Friday the 13th ruling, and the Minnesota Court’s apparent refusal to address it, particularly troubling,” writes Cornyn, R-Texas. “Such widespread inconsistency not only creates state and federal constitutional problems, but saps voters’ faith and confidence in the integrity of our election process.  In order for the voters of Minnesota — and the members of this body — to have confidence in this contest’s outcome the process in Minnesota must be uniform and it must be fair.” As for the other side — for a colorful perspective on the importance of this Senate seat, check out the quotes from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker profile.

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