CORRECTION: I originally wrote that Coleman lead Franken by 725 votes when the canvassing board met. In actuality, Coleman lead by 725 when the votes were tabulated on election night. When the canvassing board met to verify the numbers, Coleman lead by 215. I have corrected this error in the following post.
For those of us in Minnesota, it is deja vu. If we say “Wait, we just finished a recount!” it’s because, honestly, we did. But regardless, here we go again.
The forecasted Republican wave hit Minnesota hard this year, flipping the House and Senate from Democratic control the Republican control. That in itself was fairly unexpected, but no one honestly believed the Governor’s race would very close — in all but the last poll, DFLer (Democrat) and former senator Mark Dayton had a small but comfortable lead over Republican Tom Emmer and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner. Sure, Minnesota hadn’t seen a progressive governor in decades, but with huge discontent in the current Republican governorship, there was no reason to think the polling would be off.
Yet now, 18 hours after the polls have closed, the votes are within half a percent between Dayton and Emmer, enacting the constitutional need for an automatic recount.
We’re Minnesotans, so now we are veterans of this, after the grueling and endless 2008 senate recount between then Sen. Norm Coleman and current Senator Al Franken. There are procedures in place that we have to do before we get going, including waiting for a canvassing board to meet and affirm the actual vote numbers. The state will reevaluate all of the votes, district by district, to be sure each machine reported properly. Once all of this is official, the canvassing board will meet on November 23 to go over those results.
Unlike the Franken/Coleman recount, many more votes separate Dayton and Emmer. Dayton’s lead is nearly 9000 votes, as opposed to the mere 725 votes Coleman lead with on election night, and 215 votes that still separated them on the day the canvassing board met.
But Republicans in Minnesota have a much bigger vested interest in this recount than they did in the previous one. Yes, Franken would be the 60th vote in the senate, the one who technically could have made a veto-proof majority should the Democratic party ever be able to coalesce around a bill. Just trying to keep Franken from being seated for as long as possible scored many Republican’s hoping for national support a large amount of goodwill.
This time, however, the recount specifically addresses how work can be done in Minnesota. Until the time that a new governor is certified, the current governor will continue in the role. That means that if there is no certified governor when the newly elected Republican House and Senate reconvene, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty will get to approve any new legislation.
Governor Pawlenty declined to run for a third term, possibly due to unpopularity in a very progressive state (Pawlenty has never been elected with more that 46 percent of the vote, and his approval ratings had been steadily tanking in the last two years), but also due to his obvious desire to run for president. His need to cozy up to the most rightwing factions of the GOP has caused him to run away from any environmental issues that he had previously endorsed, go even further to the extreme on social issues, and balance the state budget primarily through cuts to government aid and health care for the poor. All of these moves made him slightly more popular with his national supporters, but left him out in the cold with many of his own constituents.
But Pawlenty’s presidential campaign wasn’t hitting many of the right notes with conservative leaders, who consistently put him behind other contenders for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. Being the governor who can pass, thanks to a Republican held House and Senate, copious amounts of right wing legislation could definitely move him up the power-rankings.
First on the agenda? Likely vetoing more federal healthcare dollars for the state, which Pawlenty already rejected earlier this year. New funds would happen at the beginning of 2011, and make a perfect statement for the governor who believe the federal healthcare reform bill is bad news.
The Franken/Coleman recount took eight months, and that was with an unprepared team of GOP lawyers. The Minnesota Republican party has made it clear that this time they will play even harder, and with a continuing fight meaning the party keeps control over all three legislative branches, there’s no reason to doubt their word.