Well, I admit that I've been so busy watching the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois and the Kennedy drama in New York that I've taken my eyes off the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. Oops!
Sure enough, as soon as I looked the other way, the lead has changed! The recount is over; and, after the recount, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman was ahead by about 200 votes. Now, however, the State Canvassing Board is reviewing the challenged ballots. Today began with Coleman ahead; but by day’s end, Democratic challenger Al Franken had pulled ahead by 250 votes.
Coleman is challenging some of the challenges and has gone to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Franken spokesman Andy Barr told the “Minneapolis Star-Tribune": "This is just the latest desperate act by a campaign panicked because it has suddenly realized that it is going to lose the election."
The Coleman camp is not giving up. Coleman spokesman Mark Drake said in a statement: "While varying headlines and a flurry of different numbers will continue, we encourage everyone to just hang on until the process is finished. When it is finished, Norm Coleman will still lead and - we believe - will have been reelected to the United States Senate."
The Canvassing Board resumes its work on Monday.
This is the last and perhaps most crucial Senate race yet to be decided. Democrats hold a 58 to 41 margin in the Senate; and seating the former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Franken would bring its margin to 59, one short of filibuster-proof, but a pretty strong majority nonetheless.
On election night, there were three contested seats that hung in the balance, and Republicans narrowly led in all three. But absentee ballots pushed the Democrat ahead in Alaska, capturing that seat. The narrow margin in Georgia required a runoff election, ultimately won by Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Now the third race, Minnesota, hangs in the balance.
We’ll have the final results next week, but I suspect court challenges may keep this race in the undecided column, perhaps past Inauguration Day. Needless to say, comedian Franken may have the last laugh.
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