Al Franken is a pretty good comedy writer. He's a so-so on-screen talent. I've never listened to his radio show, but from what I hear he's passable as a radio host. So, it was an obvious natural progression for him to run for the U.S. Senate. The star of Stuart Saves His Family [if, indeed, such a train-wreck could be said to include a 'star'] moved to Minnesota recently to challenge the equally disturbing-looking incumbent, Norm Coleman [R]. Word is that some Minnesotans resented Franken's entry into the race, calling him a 'carpet-bagger' even though I'll bet 90% of the people who called him that have no idea what the word means.
Still, enough people didn't see him in a negative light as he won the Democratic primary earlier this year and waged a strong campaign against Coleman. So good a campaign, in fact, that nobody knows who won the damned thing. Imagine Florida in 2000, only on a smaller (and colder) scale. After 2,900,000 total votes, by the end of Election Night last week, Coleman led Franken by a mere 725 votes. What's funny is that somehow between the time that tally was announced and the decision to start a recount was announced, Franken had cut a cool 500 or so votes from that lead. As of today, Coleman's lead is only 206 votes.
I guess because it's so cold up there, people from Minnesota have a hell of a hard time doing simple math. That's the only explanation for why the results of this canvass aren't expected to be known until some time next month. Or, maybe Minnesota is one of those places that gets only 3 hours of sunlight in November, I can't remember. The point is, a good time will be had by all as this recount begins.
Prior to the final results nationwide, many Democrats thought the Franken-Coleman race might be a pivotal one in their desire to secure a filibuster-proof 61 votes. Even if Franken manages to eliminate those stingy 206 Coleman voters, though, that would give the Democrats 58 seats. Nice majority, but the dream of 61 is not going to materialize. That's a shame, because if the Democrats had 60 seats and were waiting on this Franken-Coleman race, election junkies everywhere would have another month to get their fix of Wolf Blitzer and the other odd-looking degenerates, ne'er do wells and bloated former Reagan/Bush White House staffers who now populate the 24-hour a day cable political news world. Anderson Cooper would be doing his awful show from Minneapolis, no doubt. Comedy Central would be running old Saturday Night Live episodes with Franken. There would be much mirth and joy in the land.
Instead, this recount is being conducted under the radar. Coleman - like Bush in 2000 - has the advantage of a Republican governor, Timothy Pawlenty [and how much better does he look now as a McCain VP candidate instead of Sarah Palin?]. Pawlenty was performing his due diligence the other day, telling anyone who would listen - and many who would not - that he was 'disturbed' by some of the antics of the Franken campaign, questioning how 500 votes could just disappear from Coleman between November 4 and November 11. History tells us that whenever a Republican governor is 'concerned' about Democratic shenanigans in an election, you can expect said governor to play a pivotal role in determining who actually wins the damned thing. Pawlenty - and even non-partisans like the Minneapolis Star Tribune - are blasting the group ACORN for their efforts to 'inflate' the voting rolls with bogus names. A recent study by the Tribune found that nearly 75% of the new voters added to Minnesota rolls this year came from ACORN, leading Pawlenty and other Republicans to cast doubt on their validity.
The scene last week on Election Night was equally enjoyable. First, the Associated Press declared Coleman the winner. This led the toothy Republican to bound up on stage at his 'victory' party to declare....well, victory. Problem is, by the time he got up there, the AP had rescinded it's call of Coleman as the winner. Unlike Joe Lieberman in 2000, Franken to his credit did not fold like a cheap lawn chair when the initial AP decision came out, so he refused to concede. The 'who's on first' teleplay that transpired over the next few hours was much funnier than any Stuart movie (then again, your next colonoscopy is going to be a lot funnier than any Stuart movie).
What's even stranger is that Minnesota conducts elections with 20th century technology [granted, not 21st century, but not the 19th century punchcards used by Florida eight years ago] with optical scanners to tally the votes. These systems are supposed to be impervious to the kind of manipulation that appears to be taking place in the Gopher State. Guess not.
Part of me hopes Franken wins. Not because he mirrors my political beliefs but for the sheer entertainment value. With Joe Biden having to resign from the Senate, the upper chamber needs somebody good with one-liners that often lead to dead silence rather than laughter. It would liven things up. A Franken victory might inspire others like Tim Kazurinski, Nora Dunn and other SNL alums to run for office [close your eyes and imagine Senator Tracy Morgan (D) from New York lambasting some poor slob called before a Senate committee with, "You a nasty motherfucker, ain't you?"]. The possibilities are endless. And so, apparently, is this election.
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