Feature

Franken: From comedian to senator—almost

Al Franken won the recount in Minnesota, but Norm Coleman is challenging the results. The final decision now rests with the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Republicans feel they now have a stolen election of their own to rival Bush v. Gore, said Chris Cillizza and Paul Kane in The Washington Post. After seven weeks and a painstaking hand recount of 2.9 million ballots, the official winner of Minnesota’s “dead heat” of a Senate race is Democrat Al Franken. The state Canvassing Board this week certified that Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comedian and liberal gadfly, emerged with a razor-thin, 225-vote edge over Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. “But that doesn’t mean the race is definitely over,” said Amy Forliti in Huffingtonpost.com. Coleman has vowed to challenge the board’s findings, claiming that 654 ballots were improperly rejected. The mess now falls into the lap of the Minnesota Supreme Court, which could leave the outcome in doubt for weeks, if not months.

If ever an election required a careful judicial review, it’s this one, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Clearly, something fishy has been going on. Franken started the recount 215 votes behind Coleman. Yet now he’s miraculously ahead—thanks to “the machinations of Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and a meek state Canvassing Board.” Throughout the recount, officials have been “flagrantly inconsistent” in adjudicating disputed, duplicated, lost, or otherwise “dubious” votes. But in almost every case, they’ve favored Franken. And somebody still needs to explain how some 25 precincts “recorded more ballots than voters who signed in to vote.” Minnesotans may have to live for a while with only one senator. But that’s better than seating a “tainted and undeserving” one.

If Republicans are smart, said Benjamin Sarlin in TheDailybeast.com, they’ll admit defeat now. Don’t they realize the gift they’ve been given? With Barack Obama promising to set a new tone of civility and bipartisanship, “Republicans have struggled to find an easy Democratic bogeyman.” Franken perfectly fits that bill. As a Harvard graduate, he’s an archetypal elitist. As a former entertainer with a raunchy streak, he epitomizes Hollywood liberalism. And with such books to his credit as Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, he has a confrontational style that drives conservatives crazy. Most election experts say that even if the bulk of voter challenges go Coleman’s way, he is highly unlikely to end up on top. So the sooner the GOP lets Franken join the Senate, the sooner he can assume his role as “the right wing’s favorite punching bag.”

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