Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The gift of 59

Al Franken is now claiming to be ahead by 22 votes in his Minnesota Senatorial campaign. At this point in a recount both campaigns usually spout bullshit (Norm Coleman has already twice declared victory in the race), so I'm taking this claim with a grain of salt.

As of this afternoon Intrade still had Coleman with the advantage, but expectations for this race have shot all over the board in the past month, clearly those in the know really don't know all that much.

Stock for a Norm Coleman re-election
on through November

If Franken's count is correct though, and if his lead holds, he would lock in the Democrats at 59 seats in the Senate for the coming session. Obviously winning the seat is a Democratic goal, but how useful really is this 59th seat?

Holding a 59th seat is one vote more than a 58th, but that isn't enough to invoke cloture and break a filibuster. The elusive 60th seat needed for that slipped away from them yesterday when Saxby Chambliss won the Georgia runoff beating his Democratic challenger by 15 points.

Even in a close filibuster fight Norm Coleman is not necessarily the difference. He may be a Republican, but he is far from being a conservative, with him filling the seat any vote for cloture that isn't straight down party lines would likely swing the same way as with Franken.

My point in all this is that there are downsides for the Democrats in a win by Franken. He is a comedian with a long history of loud jokes that are generally not appropriate for a statesman. This was used against him in the campaign, and any further ammunition he gives to the Republicans will surely be used in the future against both him and, more importantly, the Democratic majority.

He's also quite liberal and an entertainer. The only thing Republicans love more than actors (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fred Thompson, Chuck Norris, Ronald Reagan, etc.) is making fun of how "hollywood is full of liberals". Stupid as the argument is with most of the elected actors bearing an 'R' next to their name, it does fire up their base. Have no doubt that Al Franken clips will be used en masse to fill Republican coffers in 2010.

If Franken wins this election and finds his place as a witty but respectful Senator he could be a great asset to the Democratic party, but if he has a hard time shaking the role of provocateur they may wish he'd lost. A Democrat in this seat may be an early Christmas gift for the Republicans.


meshealle said...
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Jason Harx said...

I agree that it's unlikely that a single person will do anything too dramatic, but it's a zero-sum game we're dealing with. Add in William Jefferson, Rod Blagojevich, and whatever other bozo with a 'D' next to his name that does something stupid in the next two years and you can get some real damage.

Nobody at the RNC worried much about Tom Delay back in 2006 until the list started to stack up.

I'm not arguing that he is bad for the Dems, just that his past record shows that he could be.