In a press conference that concluded just minutes ago, former Senator Norm Coleman conceded the Minnesota Senate race, adding that he had called Al Franken to congratulate him on his victory. The ending of an eight-month saga, today also marks the final chapter of the GOP’s disastrous 2008 cycle: With Minnesota, Democrats picked-up a total of eight seats in last fall’s elections.
Today’s decision by the state Supreme Court essentially meant that the game was over for Coleman but he still had a small opening to delay matters. He wisely concluded that the odds of provoking an anti-GOP backlash among Minnesota voters were far greater than the odds he could be any more successful in federal courts.
Coleman’s decision saves Governor Tim Pawlenty from a painful dilemma. Had Coleman appealed and had Pawlenty signed the document, it could have put the Governor at odds with the Republican base - always a tricky situation for a presidential hopeful.
It also leaves the door open for Coleman to pursue a gubernatorial run in 2010. It remains to be seen whether Coleman pushed his contest far enough to durably alienate the public, but it’s clear is that he could not afford to prolong the legal battle any longer if he has any intention of running in 2010. (He sidestepped the asked about it at a press conference earlier today.)
And just like that, Democrats get an additional and reliable Senate vote. (Don’t forget that Ted Kennedy’s refusal to resign despite his year-long absence has been costing Democrats a vote since the spring of 2008; as such, Franken will only get them to 59.) Given that Franken’s victory has looked certain for months, it’s easy to forget that Democrats were pessimistic in the first few weeks after the recount; or that Franken never led before December 20th, 6 weeks after votes were cast; or that Franken didn’t look like he would able to keep up with Coleman back in the spring of 2008, when fellow Democrats were attacking him over past writings.
But at the end of the day, Franken rode the Democratic wave and successfully completed his transition from comic to serious politician - but not before setting up one last show for us to enjoy. However frustrating the past eight months have been, they also offered moments of pure theater, starting with the canvassing board’s week-long deliberation over challenged ballots - porn for political junkies, I called it.
Update: Among the deluge of coverage heralding Democrats for reaching 60 Senate votes just in time for health care reform and the Sotomayor hearings, credit to The Atlantic’s Josh Green for being one of the rare commentators to point out that Democrats only effectively control 58 seats - 59 if Byrd returns to Washington. That means they still need Republican votes to break cloture votes but they can no longer blame the GOP for obstructionism.