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Power Line to Coleman: your campaign stinks

Norm’s brain trust was “remarkably passive,” “caught flatfooted,” “visibly floored” and “outhustled and outsmarted.” And this is a Coleman ally talking!
By David Brauer

Suck it, Wall Street Journal and Joe Soucheray: your allegations of a corrupt partisan recount are bogus.

That isn’t a Commie-symp talking; it’s conservative über-blogger Scott Johnson of Power Line. Attacking the “the underlying theme that Senator Coleman is a victim of Democratic scheming,” Johnson writes:

There was no noticeable partisan division among the board. Minnesotans are justifiably proud of the transparency and fairness of their work. I reject any imputation of misconduct to the board such as is implicit in the Journal editorial. Whatever inconsistencies the board committed in ruling on challenged ballots and other issues do not result from partisan mischief.

It’s a testament to the brilliance of having an omni-partisan Canvassing Board. Johnson, a lawyer, knows both Republican members: Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson (“a friend”) and Chief Justice Eric Magnuson. “They are two of the best judges serving in the Minnesota courts. Period,” writes Johnson.

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Perhaps the most interesting part of Johnson’s analysis is the gusto with which he attacks Coleman’s brain trust, calling them “remarkably passive,” “caught flatfooted,” “visibly floored” and “outhustled and outsmarted” by the Frankenistas. “The campaign has not put on a performance that makes an impression of anything other than ineptitude,” he writes.

In the end, Johnson recommends a new boss: local lawyer Roger Magnuson, a Dorsey & Whitney lawyer who worked on George Bush’s 2000 recount effort.

These sorts of long knives come out in a defeat — and whatever happens in the election contest, the recount clearly went badly for Coleman. I don’t have any inside knowledge of the Republican’s campaign, so I don’t know who to blame (though it’s just possible the law and the ballots really were on Franken’s side).

However, one thing Johnson writes rings true with what I heard from the other side of the partisan divide:

Franken’s campaign recognized immediately the opportunity to “find” more votes with the “improperly rejected” absentee ballots. The Coleman campaign may have erred at the outset when it failed to initiate its own efforts or craft a countervailing strategy.

I’d take off the insinuating quote marks, but Coleman sure might have been out-organized. From the start of the recount, I heard that Franken had far more observers in the field — meaning they had more eyes checking for ballot challenges. They were also better trained to identify valid problems. The higher percentage of upheld Franken challenges seemed to confirm that.

One reason Minnesota DFLers have made big gains in recent years is that they’ve gotten very, very good at organizing. Those grassroots skills, honed for campaigns, may have proven critical when the recount rolled around. It’s an aspect of this endless story that bears more reporting.