The Franken/Coleman recount is still not over, and let’s face it, it might not be over for some time. But it’s closer to over now that the three-judge panel hearing the case has limited Coleman’s universe of ballots to 400 — a number that is, quite simply, way too small to work for him.
The ruling sets the stage for the promised appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and that’s where things will, I think, finally get resolved. Yes, yes, John Cornyn has threatened to drag this out for “years” by getting this shunted into the Federal courts, and I have no doubt that the Coleman camp will try it. But the Minnesota Supreme Court tipped its hand earlier, and indicated that they will require the issuance of an election certificate once they’ve handled the case.
Coleman’s best bet at that point is to ask for a stay of that certificate from the Federal courts. But such a stay might not happen. To get a stay, Coleman needs a substantial likelihood of winning and to prove he’s being irreparably harmed by the stay not going through. Coleman has a weak case, according to pretty much every impartial observer. More important, though, Coleman is not irreparably harmed by Franken being seated. Presumably, if the U.S. Supreme Court vacates the election, Franken will be kicked out of the Senate, and a new election will be held, but under no circumstances will Coleman be seated between now and a hypothetical, unlikely new election.
Given that, Coleman’s situation now (not a Senator) is materially unaffected by the issuance of a certificate. Franken, however, does suffer irreparable harm from the issuance of a stay — something that the court also will have to take into account.
If a certificate is issued, and Franken is seated, all of this will come to an end. At this point, given the extremely weak hand Coleman has, the appeals are basically a cheap way for the NRSC to keep a Democrat out of office. But once a certificate is issued, and Franken is seated, appeals will hold no real value. Coleman’s funding will dry up, and the long, winding road will end.
More to the point, I think most Minnesotans — myself included — have been willing to allow Coleman to see the process through state courts. I don’t agree with his decision to contest the election (especially with such weak evidence), but it’s his right to do so. Once we get to the Minnesota Supreme Court, though, I think that patience will run out. For Coleman to essentially argue that Minnesota is a corrupt, incompetent state whose courts don’t know enough to give him the election — that will pretty much destroy Coleman’s image with a majority of Minnesotans. After all, if there’s one thing that animates Minnesotans, its our pervasive sense of inadequacy; we like our politicians to praise the state up one side and down the other. If Coleman essentailly slimes the state, he will be ending his political career. (Gov. Timmy is also in jeopardy should he try to foot-drag on signing an election certificate; if the Minnesota Supremes give him a directive to sign, he fails to do so at his peril.)
At any rate, it’s not over yet, and there are probably a few more twists and turns in this road. But at this point, it’s all but certain that at some point, Al Franken will be seated as a Senator from Minnesota. The only question is when.