Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Is Coleman's Hands-On Approach to His Court Challenge Going to Backfire?

Bookmark and Share

Norm Coleman is leaving no doubt to the public or the press that he stands firmly behind his decision to launch his U.S. Senate recount legal challenge. Coleman has drawn significant attention for his frequent courtroom appearances and the Senator has hardly been a shrinking violet when it comes to making media appearances.

This very public image has, until recently, stood in stark contrast to that of Al Franken, who has kept his distance from his attorneys, and, until this past weekend, most of the local media. One wonders, were it not for Esme Murphy's high-profile open-letter blog to Franken nearly a week ago, would the Round 1 recount winner have been so eager to log about a half-dozen interviews this weekend (including one with WCCO)?

Franken's motives for remaining aloof from the legal processes are obvious - he both wants to act like he has already won the election, plus he does not want to appear 'in the frame' when his attorneys take any actions that may give the impression of trying to cut the process short or suppress the counting of legitimate ballots of Minnesotans.

In recent weeks, Smart Politics has already outlined the many advantages for Coleman to pursue this court challenge as well as the fact that his actions to date have not truly damaged his public image .

However, while proceeding with the court challenge per se has its clear advantages, Coleman is incurring a real risk to his public image by so boldly putting himself in middle of the legal and public relations battlefields.

On the upside, by making numerous appearances before the media and in the courtroom, Coleman is taking ownership of his lawsuit, and is not seen as hiding behind his lawyers. The positive side of this for the Senator is that he is viewed by the public as taking responsibility for his actions - a sign of political leadership (even if motivated by undeniable personal gain).

On the downside, however, Coleman is now intimately being associated with every legal argument, and the laborious ballot-by-ballot examination in an election that is now 97 days old and counting.

In the political moment, when really big issues are facing the state of Minnesota - record unemployment increases, a budget battle in St. Paul, and a monumental stimulus bill on the Hill that split the Gopher State's U.S. House delegation - the problems of Norm Coleman and the minutiae that emerges from these court proceedings seem, well, rather small. And with each passing day, Coleman and his legal arguments, however well-grounded, will likely seem even smaller as November 4th 2008 becomes an increasingly distant image in the voters' rear view mirror.

A camper is told, should they encounter a bear, to stand up straight, reach their arms out wide to seem as tall as possible, and make a lot of noise to scare the bear away. While Coleman's words and legal briefs may not be scaring away his opponent, he is doing his best to make his court challenge seem as big and important to the public as possible: the Senator couches his arguments for the challenge in grand Constitutional terms - that every vote should be counted, and that (alleged) double-counting will disenfranchise the votes of millions of Minnesotans.

The media strategy may be paying off so far for Coleman, despite an increasing number of Minnesotans who want the election to be over and done with. For it is Al Franken who has perhaps endured the greatest media backlash to date - first for his invisibility, and secondly when, in his motion before the Minnesota Supreme Court last week to dismiss the case, Franken attorney Marc Elias strayed from legal arguments to political ones - explicitly linking the need for Franken to be seated with the need to pass the federal stimulus package: "The fate of a stimulus package hinges on one vote in the United States Senate. For want of a vote, a stimulus package may be lost."

Public relations gaffes like that by Franken and an open, roll-up-your-sleeves relationship with the media by Coleman will clearly buy the Senator more time. But how long can Coleman continue to tread water in the sea of public opinion?

Previous post: Why the Minnesota Senate Recount and Court Challenge Is Helping the Federal Budget Deficit
Next post: Why Governor Pawlenty's Criticism of the Federal Stimulus Bill Is Smart Politics

1 Comment


  • It's *former* Senator.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

    The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

    Political Crumbs

    Seeing Red

    Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


    Home Field Advantage?

    When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting