Democrats Must Wait for 60 as Coleman Fights On
By Perry Bacon Jr.
While Democrats are excited about the prospect of a supermajority of 60 senators after Sen. Arlen Specter joined their party, they will have to wait at least another month for that to become reality.
Norm Coleman's campaign manager said yesterday that the former Minnesota senator would continue to contest the results of his election in November against Democrat Al Franken. A district court in the state ruled earlier this month that Franken won the election by 312 votes, but Coleman appealed to the state's Supreme Court, which will start hearing arguments in the case on June 1.
"Senator Coleman's focus remains on the thousands of Minnesota citizens who have not had their voices heard or their votes counted," said Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan. "We will keep on fighting to enfranchise these voters and to ensure that every legally cast ballot is opened and counted."
Franken, on the advice of advisers, has largely stayed silent throughout the recount process and said little after the Specter switch. But he announced the hiring of a chief staff yesterday, Drew Littman, a longtime Capitol Hill staffer who has served in a number of posts, including policy director for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) The hiring comes a week after Franken tapped a person as his state director and suggests the Democrat's strategy of portraying this race as all but over.
"With his years of experience and his expertise in helping new Senators hit the ground running, Drew has become a trusted advisor and a valuable resource as I prepare to take office," Franken said in a statement. "I will continue to count on him as I work with Senators from both parties."
Franken is already trying to lay the groundwork for his Senate career. He, like Coleman, won 42% of the vote in November as an independent pulled in 15%. And Franken remains rather unpopular, as the Star-Tribune poll found he was viewed unfavorably by 48% of the voters in the state, while 43% percent had a favorable view of the ex-comedian.
Looking to reverse those numbers, Franken, once a highly-partisan Democratic activist, uses most of his public statement to tout his vision of bi-partisanship. And he is saying he will follow the example of Bill Bradley and Hillary Clinton, two people who entered the Senate with great fanfare but spent their early years in the Senate trying not to draw attention.
"I'm going to follow the Bradley-Clinton model of putting my head down and getting to work ... and letting my colleagues know that I want to do that and I'm not someone that's going to be speaking on the floor my first day there," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week.
It remains unclear how long the legal process will continue before someone is seated in Minnesota. Coleman has suggested he would start a whole new round of appeals in federal court if he loses at the state Supreme Court, and so far GOP leaders in Washington, who have helped him raise millions for his legal case, have said they would back such an option.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has declined to answer when asked if he would sign an election certificate that would allow the seating of Franken if his follow Republican Coleman loses at the state Supreme Court. The Minnesota governor faces a complicated political decision if Coleman continues his case. Pawlenty is considering a run for reelection in 2010, and a recent poll by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggests he would be wise to distance himself from the Coleman: 64% of respondents in the poll said Coleman should not have appealed to the state Supreme Court.
But Pawlenty is also considering a 2012 presidential run and easing the Democrats's path to their 60th seat might anger GOP activists nationally.
April 29, 2009; 1:39 PM ET
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