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Seesaw Battle Continues in Minnesota


(Danville, California)

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.

Check in daily at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Obama Should Be Commended for Rev. Warren Invitation


(Danville, California)

President-elect Barack Obama continues to show evidence that he will keep his promise about reaching across the aisle to include Republican and conservative interests whenever he sees fit. Robert Gates is staying on at Defense; and the CIA chief and the head of U.S. Central Command are staying put for now, too. Continuity in these critical positions during a war - even a war Obama opposes- is wise.

Obama will also tap Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) to be Secretary of Transportation. LaHood has served in Congress for 14 years and also served a term in the Illinois Legislature. He was the longtime Chief of Staff to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel. LaHood knows his way around Washington and Illinois, which is one of the most critical transportation states in the nation. So, he’s a good choice.

The bipartisan back slapping for Obama apparently stops here: Obama has invited the Rev. Rick Warren to say prayers at his inauguration. This has infuriated many liberals and gay rights advocates because Warren is fairly conservative and opposes gay marriage.

At a press conference today in Chicago, Obama told reporters that America needs to come together even when there's disagreement on social issues. "That dialogue is part of what my campaign is all about," he said.

Gay rights groups disagree. “We feel a deep level of disrespect when one of the architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination," the Human Rights Campaign said in a letter to Obama, asking him to reconsider.

Warren openly supported California Proposition 8, which imposed a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. While Obama believes marriage is only between a man and a woman, he opposed Proposition 8, saying it was wrong to remove rights that were already granted by the courts. Other than the gay marriage issue, the two men are miles apart on gay rights in general. So, should that disqualify Warren from saying prayers at the Inauguration? The answer is "yes," only if you believe in a single-issue political agenda.

Obama strikes me as someone who is trying to find common ground on some issues, especially at a time when the nation is in so much economic trouble. He’s going to need the support of varying factions if he’s to succeed overall. He is at least trying to reach out to Evangelicals by inviting Rev. Warren.

Warren and Obama are both popular - despite their differences - because followers view them as passionate leaders. They are men committed to their words, according to followers. Obama knows he may need the support of Warren’s followers on some issues. Obama desires to seek their common ground.

What issues do they share in common? Africa, for one. Warren and his Saddleback Church in Southern California have given millions to African relief, especially for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Africa was a priority for the past two U.S. Presidents, and Obama is planning to carry on with that mission. And let’s be clear here. Part of this is borne of faith-driven compassion, and part of it is for national security. If any of the African nations devastated by AIDS fall to terrorist regimes, then that region and the rest of the free world are in even more danger.

Warren invited Obama to speak at his church, realizing the importance of putting forth diverse views in a democracy. Obama and John McCain later returned to participate in an election forum moderated by Warren. At the very least, Obama is returning the courtesy of those invitations; but I believe he is doing more by reaching across the aisle.
He should be commended for it, not castigated.

Check in often at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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