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Norm Coleman’s Plan: Delay, Delay, Delay

February 23, 2009

When you can not win through the ballot box, do it the Republican way.

The Senate election trial is a month old, enough time to ask: Does Norm Coleman have a chance of winning?

A series of court rulings have dealt the Republican long odds for overturning DFLer Al Franken’s 225-vote lead. The three judges hearing the case have been only partly receptive to Coleman’s bid to expand the field of ballots as he seeks more votes, and they brushed aside his claim of systemic problems with Minnesota elections.

Coleman once wanted to examine up to 11,000 rejected absentee ballots in hope that enough might eventually be opened and counted to help him overtake Franken. Now he’s looking at opening perhaps a couple of thousand ballots. And the number could turn out to be even smaller.

“It’s very hard, the way it’s set up right now, for him to be able to win,” said David Schultz, a Hamline University law professor specializing in elections.

“Very slim,” was how Duke University law Prof. Guy-Uriel Charles characterized Coleman’s current chances.

“Coleman is in a bubble running out of oxygen,” said Lawrence Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political science professor.

Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg reiterated late Friday that the campaign believes the candidate still can win enough votes from the current pool of rejected absentee ballots to win.

But the three experts who have been following the trial say Coleman also appears to be playing beyond the daily courtroom action and laying the groundwork for an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court or federal courts.

On Friday, Politico reported that the Republican National Committee has transferred $250,000 to the Minnesota Republican Party to help Coleman with his legal fees. And a funding pitch posted on YouTube last week featured key GOP senators asking viewers to donate money to the legal battle. “Anything you can do to help Norm financially to make sure that he can tell his story before the court is much appreciated,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Schultz said the YouTube pitch and Ginsberg’s remarks “really suggest that an appeal is very likely at this point. Coleman needs more money. He wants the boat to go forward, and, more importantly, Coleman, if he loses this one, is going to have to pay court costs. So he has to worry about coming up with the money, not just for his side, but for the other side.”

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