The bitterness between Democratic challenger Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman has continued beyond their race for a Minnesota US Senate seat. The Franken campaign claims to have taken the lead in the recount, while the Coleman people say that the Franken camp is lying.
The dispute essentially revolves around how the ballots are counted in the recount. As the Franken camp posted on their website today, “By our count, Al Franken leads Norm Coleman by 22 votes with roughly 138,000 ballots left to be hand counted. Many media outlets are calculating the margin by a different method, relying on raw data from the Secretary of State’s website to conclude that Coleman holds a lead of over 300 votes. However, that calculation assumes that every challenge will be upheld by the state canvassing board, whereas our calculation assumes that the original call by the impartial election judge will stand. So, if the judge calls it for Franken, we say it’s a Franken ballot. Likewise, if the judge calls it for Coleman, we treat it as a Coleman ballot – even if we have challenged it.”
Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said, “The Franken Campaign invented a story of an 84 year old stroke victim in a shameless effort to make a political point. Today, they’ve invented a story of a lead in the recount. Both stories are false, and both stories will be held up as evidence of a campaign that has been prepared to say and do anything to win an election that they lost on election night. We have confidence that on Friday the results of the recount will show Norm Coleman has emerged, again, as the winner of the 2008 United States Senate election.”
However, late this afternoon,TwinCities.com is reporting that the 37 votes that were found for Franken yesterday in Maplewood have been offset by an error in Minneapolis where 129 ballots were counted twice. When the error was corrected Franken lost a net 36 votes. No matter whose calculations are being used, this would mean that Coleman has the lead. It is likely that we won’t know the winner of the election until the entire process is completed on Friday. The fact that both campaigns are claiming a lead demonstrates just how close the margin is.
The Franken/Coleman race was easily the ugliest statewide race in the country. This was a campaign that became very personal and was filled with mudslinging by both camps. Issues took a back seat as this was a brutal contest. The only things that we can be certain of are that the loser of this election will almost certainly feel cheated, and that a rematch in six years is very likely. This was not a campaign that will be taught in civics classes as a model of our electoral process.