With 88 percent of ballots now recounted, Norm Coleman’s lead over Al Franken has swelled to 282 (from 215 when the recount started). There are still over 5,600 ballots being challenged by both campaigns, but an analysis by the Star Tribune has indicated that Franken will have a difficult time making up his deficit with these challenged ballots.
Franken’s prospects of gaining enough votes became more grim when the state’s Canvassing Board rebuffed his campaign’s push to include rejected absentee ballots in the recount. So, assuming the Star Tribune‘s analysis is correct, there will be two remaining avenues for Franken — one would be to fight in court for the rejected absentee ballots to be counted, or, alternatively, to take the the fight to the floor of the U.S. Senate, something that both Franken’s lawyer and Harry Reid have suggested could be a possibility. The nuclear option would be a startling overreach by Senate Democrats, and one that would be out of sync with Obama’s pledge to end partisan bickering as well as a departure from the pragmatism exhibited by keeping Joe Lieberman in the Democratic tent. It would be one thing if control of the Senate hung in the balance or if there weren’t other priorities, but Democrats will have a solid majority in the Senate either way, and they’re eager to present Obama with a stimulus package he can sign immediately upon taking office. It would be a huge mistake for them to spend the early stages of Obama’s administration instigating a partisan floor fight in which Democrats try to overrule the verdict of Minnesota voters, reaffirmed by an orderly recount process supervised by a liberal Secretary of State and by courts, in a desperate attempt to gain one extra Senate seat when they already have 58 others.