Norm Coleman is not going down without a fight. That much is clear from his actions in the wake of this week’s ruling from the three-judge election contest panel that only 400 additional ballots will be considered for inclusion in the final vote tally. By most calculations — including that of Coleman’s lawyers — the ruling dealt a seemingly crippling blow to his prospects of prevailing in the legal contest.
Can’t get enough Norm news? The Minnesota Independent has more: Leaked Coleman data include trove of comments from Franken fans .
Coleman’s attorneys immediately announced, however, that he would be appealing the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The former senator then jetted off to Washington to reassure supporters that he wasn’t giving up the fight.
But by continuing to drag out the election contest — therefore ensuring that Minnesota is represented by just one senator — Coleman might hurt his own future political prospects if he presses the case much farther.
Former Senator Dave Durenberger, a Republican and Coleman supporter, believes that the most serious damage to Coleman’s political future occurred during the nasty, extraordinarily expensive campaign, rather than the aftermath.
“The reason I think that people are patient is that a lot of people got to the point where they don’t give a damn,” he notes. “It was such a horrible campaign. That’s the challenge that Norm faces. It makes it difficult to get back to remembering how good Norm was at a lot of things, as a mayor and as a senator.”
John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has suggested that the senate contest could take “years,” a prospect that the Republican leadership seems perfectly happy to live with considering that it keeps the Democrats stalled at 58 seats. But Durenberger doesn’t think the Republican leadership has Coleman’s best interests in mind.
“They could care less about Norm Coleman,” he says. “They’ll talk about Norm: ‘We loved him. He was such a terrific blah blah blah.’ But — and it’s hard to says this — this is not the same Republican caucus that was there when I served. If Norm had to finance this recount on his own, he never could have gone through it. Norm couldn’t afford to put a nickel into this thing, but John Cornyn could.”
Dean Barkley, who attracted 15 percent of the vote as the Independence Party candidate in the U.S. Senate race, figures the public is willing to give Coleman the benefit of the doubt — for now.
“It’s his right to pursue this,” says Barkley. “I think if he pushes it beyond the state Supreme Court he might start getting some pretty serious damage.”
Hamline University political science professor David Schultz agrees that Coleman’s currently at a tipping point with the general public. “I get the sense in the last two to three weeks that the support has dramatically eroded,” he says.
Schultz believes Coleman would best preserve his own future political prospects by conceding defeat if the three-judge panel rules in Franken’s favor.
“I think at that point the public’s like, ‘Okay, you had your one shot at the court,’” he says. “As soon as he files the appeal, whatever remaining support I think he has is completely eroded.”
But Schultz argues that at this point Coleman is too beholden to the Republican leadership to act in his own best political interests.
“For the Republicans a vacant seat is just as good at this point as having Coleman in office,” he says. “The longer they can keep this seat vacant, the longer they can keep the Democrats from getting to number 59. I’m not even sure if Coleman is in complete control of his destiny at this point. I think they’re pretty much dictating the terms of the legal strategy at this point.”
Of course, given Coleman’s well-publicized financial troubles, the goal may no longer be political victory, but rather (as suggested by this story at Huffington Post) a plush job on K Street. If that’s indeed the case, then Coleman most certainly will explore every legal avenue imaginable.