Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 12, 2008

THE NEXT PHASE BEGINS IN MINNESOTA.... With the razor-thin margin in the Senate race in Minnesota, the first phase in the Republican strategy was to argue that a statewide recount was a waste of time. It was unpersuasive. So, the second phase is getting underway.

The recount in the Minnesota Senate race hasn't even begun yet, but already the GOP is working to delegitimize it in advance, by smearing the man who will run it as a partisan Democrat.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has been distributing to reporters a three-page "backgrounder" that attacks Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, for having spoken at the Democratic convention this summer, and for having "led a voter registration coalition that included ACORN," among other alleged sins.

In a remarkable coincidence, just as the national Republican Party is going on the offensive, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is also going on the attack, using similar talking points, and going after Mark Ritchie for having a tangential connection to ACORN and (cue scary music) MoveOn.org. Ironically, the Journal's editorial board condemns Franken, Democrats, and "left-wing allies" for "waging a full-scale public pressure campaign."

And to top things off, Republicans have launched a new online resource to "keep watch on what they call 'shenanigans' perpetrated by Democrats as the Minnesota Senate recount proceeds."

If you think all of this is starting to sound a bit like Florida in 2000, we're on the same page.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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Comments

They will have to stall the recount until after finals so the angry white frat boys can be hired to come up and have a spontaneous riot.

Posted by: martin on November 12, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The first thing this made me think of was Ohio in 2004. Blackwell, anyone?

Posted by: Don B on November 12, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand how this is supposed to work.

There were two things that allowed them to get away with it in 2000 - firstly, the Secretary of State was their tool, and could be relied upon to hold things up; and secondly, and most importantly, there was a time limit.

None of that holds here. If this goes on for months, it doesn't matter - the seat will just be empty until it's resolved. How exactly is this stuff going to help them keep the seat?

Posted by: John on November 12, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Recounts are a perversion of democracy and Coleman is absolutely right to fight it.

Posted by: Al on November 12, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Al is right -- counting votes is undemocratic! Just suspend all elections and give it to the Republicans!

Man, I hope the Dems learn, someday.

Posted by: Gore/Feingold '16 on November 12, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Come on, Al, work harder.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on November 12, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Alright, I'm fairly certain that there's absolutely nothing wrong with a statewide recount, that in fact when margins are so razor thin that it's pretty much necessary to have a recount. I would feel the same "irregardless" ;) of who was in the lead.

That being said, is there actually any legitimate argument to prevent a recount? (I'm feeling generous today).

Anybody know of any?

Posted by: neilt on November 12, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

People in general, and Republicans uniquely so, seem unable to consider that not everyone acts and thinks the way they do. So it follows that, given the Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell precedents, the Republicans assume that a Democratic Secretary of State would, of course, act the way those two did.

hmm ... maybe he will! Isn't payback supposed to be fair play?

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on November 12, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Having worked as an election official in MN for the past 7 years I am proud to say that our state voting (and counting) process is NOTHING like Florida's. I think as this works it's way towards a conclusion it will become obvious the MN knows the value of transparency and validation with regards to elections. Even though I am a steadfast DFLer I will (as will most MN) stand behind the outcome of the recount, whomever ends up on top.

Posted by: John Merland on November 12, 2008 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Ritchie is no Katherine Harris.

Posted by: OkieFromMuskogee on November 12, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Stench. You can smell it all the way from Minnesota. Let them scream bloody murder. When the dust settles and Al's the winner, they can continue to scream bloody murder. They like to scream, Rush, O'Riely and those other screaming bozos. Scream, scream, scream. Me? I like the fact that Obama is President even though they screamed at the top of their collective lungs for McAce. You'd think that they'd be hoarse by now...you'd think...

Posted by: stevio on November 12, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

States should just have laws mandating a runoff if the margin is a small enough fraction of the margin of error for the voting technology involved.

Alaska is a bigger concern IMO. The voting results were amazingly different than the pre-election polls, and official turnout numbers are anomalously low.


Posted by: Bill Arnold on November 12, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

If Al Franken eventually loses, does that mean we can get his radio show back? If so, I see a win-win situation.

Posted by: charles on November 12, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute: in Minn, any election closer than 0.5% automatically goes to recount. There is nothing partisan about this process, period. People from both sides will certainly be on hand. The WSJ really should go jump in a lake - it's high time for someone to launch a business daily with a bit of common sense to put them out of business. For them to complain about anyone being partisan is just too rich.

Posted by: Richard Greenslade on November 12, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, the Rethuglicans have cried victimhood all the way through their questionable elections and their invincible majorities. They finally are on the ropes and can cry if they want to. Let them enjoy themselves! I know, I'm enjoying it.

Posted by: Frak on November 12, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

States should just have laws mandating a runoff if the margin is a small enough fraction of the margin of error for the voting technology involved.

That's the funny part -- Minnesota does have a law that mandates a recount if the result is within 0.5%. The Coleman/Franken result is within 0.01%. Even if he wanted to, Franken couldn't waive his right to a recount, because it's automatic under Minnesota law.

So, as usual, Republicans are trying to avoid having to obey the law at any cost, and whine when they actually have to follow the rules like everyone else does.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 12, 2008 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

"It's not who votes, it's who counts the votes."

Josef Stalin

Posted by: Starfish on November 12, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Knowing Franken's reputation for feistiness, I suspect he relishes a narrow win in a recount more than if he won in a blowout. Anything to make the Republicans sweat and scream that much more (and deservedly so).

I wonder if anyone thought to ask the Coleman camp who WOULD be worthy of spearheading the recount if not Mark Ritchie. Because if they can list any name, then it means recounts are NOT, as they originally claimed "a waste of time." And if recounts ARE a waste of time, then I think it only fair for Coleman to have to contact each and every person whose vote has not been counted to tell them to f*** off. After all, it's what he's really saying to these voters, may as well do it to their faces.

Posted by: slappy magoo on November 12, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Also exactly what they did in the 2004 Washington governor's race which came down to a second recount.

It was amusing watching them loose court cases to unanimous decision. I think they went to the state supreme court four times and lost every one unanimously.

They had sneakier methods as well. Their count monitors started objecting to large numbers of ballots to slow the count in King County (the largest and most democratic county) then they complained in the media that the count in King County was suspiciously slow.

Posted by: JeffF on November 12, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

And what are the Democrats doing? [crickets...] I'm not saying they need to fear monger and spin as the Repubs are doing, but they should be out there defending this recount with equal if not more volume and I don't see too much of it.

Posted by: tom.a on November 12, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

This is so fucking tiresome. How about-- a good-faith effort to figure out who got the most votes. Period. Is that really so far beyond the imagination of the powers-that-be in wing-nut land?

Posted by: MattF on November 12, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Coinciding with the WSJ garbage, one of the Star Tribune's (one of the local papers) columnists, a knee-jerk right winger, has a column today calling into question Mark Ritchie's ability to remain impartial during this recount. With Coleman's layers fulminating over "shenanigans" (there are none) it does have the feeling of Florida '00.

I expect to see James Baker arrive here any day.

Posted by: PS, St. Paul on November 12, 2008 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

When all the dust settles the Democrats in Washington will enact a simplified, nationally-standard, secure registration/voting system. One that makes voting so convenient and fast that the voter participation rates will go up by 10% or more.

And the Republicans will be royally screwed. They have for so many years relied on complex, difficult-to-use but easy-to-rig, voting systems to get their 51% margins that they've long forgotten how to appeal to the true center of the American populace.

Then in 2011 the Census results, controlled by a Democratic administration for the first time in 50 years, will give an honest count of the number of people in urban areas (in 2001 the Bush administration wouldn't even allow the release of the honest numbers -- look it up). Also in 2011 the Democrats will be able to reverse the Republican gerrymandering of many states.

All those Republican dirty tricks, down the drain.

Posted by: Anonny on November 12, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't want to get too into this, but couldn't we, with entirely more justification, paint Hon. Sen. Coleman with every screwball from AEI, Cato, Heritage, Hudson et alii?

Posted by: jhm on November 12, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are doing their best to insure they will long be identified as the party of vote suppression and disenfranchisement.

If they think this is a way to build their party back from the ashes of the last two elections, God bless 'em. They will continue to antagonize minorities and moderates who have left the GOP in droves for a welcome home with the Dems.

Remember when the GOP called themselves the Idea Party? The party with all the new ideas? Well,the shameful practice of vote suppression harks back to a more repressive era hundreds of years old. The GOP has abandoned its own rhetoric.

Where would they be if they put all that technical and legal expertise toward insuring the broadest possible voter participation? But they don't think like that . . .

Posted by: pj in jesusland on November 12, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the Wa State Governors race in 2004! We had to deal with the same BS as Florida, but with big exceptions: we had a process and we stuck to it. Minnesota has an even better process: they start with a manual recount, which will always have different results, not usually significant, from the machine count.

My favourite result was when a judge from a conservative area of the state took two votes away from Rossi, one because the voter was a felon. Yep, felons vote Republican too.

Posted by: tomj on November 12, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

OK, this'll take a long time, but here's what they could do, because of the fact that they use optical-scan ballots: scan every disputed ballot into pdf files, and then put them ALL online, individually numbered. Then everyone can see which ballots have been counted or not, and why.

Posted by: DonBoy on November 12, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Republican political warfare is breathtaking. I would sooner trust a room-full of Iranians, North Koreans, and Taliban fighters than these thugs. The others lie some of the time, GOPers lie ALL the time.

Posted by: Palinoscopy on November 12, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

There's a corollary to
"The wicked flee where no man pursueth'
that goes something like this
"What sins the wicked have done to the innocent, just those very sins are most feared by the wicked"
Anyone that can do a better job of tightening that up and keep it still in King Jamesese, go ahead

Posted by: Stewart Dean on November 12, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Recounts are a perversion of democracy and Coleman is absolutely right to fight it."

/giggle/ I always find it amusing when I can't tell if something is meant to be parody.

Posted by: Stacy6 on November 12, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

God, the chutzpah of these Republicans whose agents physically interfered with the counting of votes in Florida! They should all be struck dumb for claiming others are tampering with voting!

Posted by: David in NY on November 12, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK


I remember when Repubs and Demos used to stand for honesty and decency, at least in their ads. Now, the RethugTurd party (Grand Old Perverts) stands for screeching, lying, whining, caterwauling, and downright shit-assedness on a scale that is disgusting in the extreme.

The "honorable" Coleman should do the honorable thing and STFU while the votes are being recount as legally mandated by the PEOPLE of Minnesota.

And, when this turd loses, he should apologize, not just to Senator Franken, but to the people of his home state, who he's shat on all these months and treated with disdain.

But of course he won't. He's a Rethug.

Posted by: dejah on November 12, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

"...This is so fucking tiresome. How about-- a good-faith effort to figure out who got the most votes. Period. Is that really so far beyond the imagination of the powers-that-be in wing-nut land?

Posted by: MattF on November 12, 2008 at 11:20 AM"

To answer your question, yes it's way beyond the wing-nuts imagination or capacity.
Good faith effort? Have you not been paying attention since 1992?

Posted by: BuzzMon on November 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

When all the dust settles the Democrats in Washington will enact a simplified, nationally-standard, secure registration/voting system. -Anonny

While you're dreaming, dream me up a billion or so dollars. National vote reform isn't gonna happen as long as you rely on those put into power by that system to reform it, regardless of party. Not to mention the struggle it would be to wrestle that power away from the states.

In two months it'll go back to just a handful of people who give a crap about this issue and you won't hear about it again for two years.

Posted by: doubtful on November 12, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

"That being said, is there actually any legitimate argument to prevent a recount? (I'm feeling generous today)."

I think Minnesota requires a recount if the margin is some fraction of 1%.

Posted by: in vino veritas on November 12, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

All one has to do to confirm that Republican whining and hyperventilating over the Minnesota Senate results is just so much whiny hypocritical bullshit is a simple thought exercise: Q.: what if it were Norm Coleman, not Al Franken, who was down by just 200 votes?

A.: The GOP would be screaming just as loudly that a thorough recount was a sacred bounden duty to the principles of Democracy and Freedom and the Will of The People.

Let the assholes yawp: Senator Franken can send them his regards later.

Posted by: Jay C on November 12, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

This is utter bullshit. There are no "shenanigans" to speak of. As they certified the totals from all the counties, each candidate's total changed. It happens all the time, in every election. Republicans want to make this into a conspiracy because Coleman has lost 500 votes when they were more carefully counted? Bull. The Star Tribune had a table today showing that when the state's other recent Senate election results were certified, the totals changed, too. In 2006, Klobuchar gained nearly 3,000 votes over Mark Kennedy, and in 2000, Mark Dayton gained nearly 700 over Rod Grams. This is not indicative of any kind of shenanigans. When you take the time to more carefully tally up the ballot from each county, you notice oversights. Freaking Republicans.

Posted by: Dylan on November 12, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

And who owns the Wall Street Journal? We're now seeing the results of the buyout by Rupert Murdoch.

Posted by: rgb on November 12, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK
And who owns the Wall Street Journal? We're now seeing the results of the buyout by Rupert Murdoch.

Not really. The WSJ editorial board was every bit this bad even before Murdoch got involved.

Posted by: noncarborundum on November 12, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Not really. The WSJ editorial board was every bit this bad even before Murdoch got involved.
I agree. Read the Wall Street Journal news pages for the news. Read the Wall Street Journal editorial pages to "improve" your blood pressure. It's always been this way. (At least the past few decades.)


Posted by: Bill Arnold on November 12, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Let the lawyering begin. NPR says that each candidate needs to raise a million bucks to stay in the recall fight. What a country!

Posted by: WASA on November 12, 2008 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

What do you expect - look what the McCain campaign did to Walt Monnegan - totally smeared his good name and reputation just because he was on the losing end of an illegal Palin decision. In listening to him on Maddow's show and reading Branchflower's report it was obvious that Monnegan is a million times more ethical than the Palins and many others who were involved. In fact, many in the Alaskan government are now asking the McCain campaign to apologize to Monnegan.

Whoever above said that the R's expect everyone to be underhanded like they are hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: Hannah on November 12, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Re: And what are the Democrats doing? [crickets...] I'm not saying they need to fear monger and spin as the Repubs are doing, but they should be out there defending this recount with equal if not more volume and I don't see too much of it.

Barak Obama rarely responded to any accusations by the opposition, because he knows that to engage the accuser ends up giving the accuser more chances to respond. If you want to diffuse something, sometimes the best thing is to know there's no substance to the allegation and not to respond. It will eventually die because no one will be able to find fault.

As for the right-wing radio talkers, they talk regardless; inaccuracy is not a big deal to them - only their ratings.

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