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A Pawlenty opportunity in the latest recount?

ALSO: Flaming recount quotes, Powerline goes after Strib polls, the post-Oberstar era, and the downloading fight that won’t end.

We are girding ourselves for yet another round of hyperbolic accusations of fraud and malfeasance over a recount (see below). Meanwhile, the Washington Post picks up Brian Bakst and Patrick Condon’s AP story on the possible twists if Tim Pawlenty remains in office if the counting/legal slog continues on into January and beyond: “Democrats fear that Republicans newly in charge of both chambers will combine with Pawlenty to push through massive spending cuts and pursue long-held goals on things like gay marriage, photo ID for voters and expanded gambling. It’s a scenario that could also benefit Pawlenty, who had planned to spend January rolling out his memoir and deciding whether to run for president. Staying in office, especially with the backdrop of a nationally watched recount, would endear him to Republicans and give him a highly visible perch to polish his credentials as a fiscal watchdog. ‘Any of my personal plans or concerns are secondary to the fact I have a duty and responsibility to fulfill under the constitution,’ Pawlenty told The Associated Press in an interview. ‘I’m not going to walk away from that.’ ” Is that a shot at Sarah Palin?

State Republican Chairman Tony Sutton is the Ozzie Guillen of political flacks. He knows how to serve up flaming quotes. MinnPost’s Jay Weiner captures Sutton in full pre-recount dudgeon: “Sutton couldn’t contain himself. And, of course, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, the left-of-center elections chief who was re-elected Tuesday, was Sutton’s favorite punching bag. Sutton called the election process ‘quite frankly, a disgrace … I’m to the point now, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Mark Ritchie is administering this process and here we stand today … We are going to be very, very aggressive through this recount process … We owe it to this state that this is done right and not a process that is dominated by an ACORN activist who happens to be secretary of state … We’re going to put his feet to the fire. We’re not going to get rolled this time.’ Such is the climate of this recount in its opening hours.” How soon do you think before the first Joe Goebbels analogy?

The day after the day after the elections means plenty of somber analyses of what lies ahead. This morning’s PiPress editorializes on what the shift to Republican rule, here and in D.C., means. Apparently there has been a lot of anti-business sentiment in St. Paul government. “A blessing of Tuesday’s election results, in addition to their message of fiscal discipline, is the opportunity they present for anybody who’s serious about economic development in St. Paul, or anywhere else in Minnesota, for that matter. It’s an opportunity to break the habits associated with incremental decline and dependency and replace them with those of salesmanship and enterprise. It’s an opportunity for people who care about the economic health of their city to find things they can agree on and make them happen. This assertion from Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, quoted this week by columnist David Brooks, could serve as an organizing principle: ‘We have to make it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs.’ ”  Really? “Incremental decline and dependency”?

The Strib’s Jill Burcum looks at Michele Bachmann’s easy victory over Tarryl Clark and says: “Bachmann makes no apologies for who she is. Clark, in contrast, seemed to distance herself from her party’s foundations. When it came to health reform, Clark stuck to the middle ground when she should have touted its benefits — helping sick kids get insurance, for example. Another misstep: ducking a debate question about “card check,” a bill that would help unions organize. Clark should have come out swinging for labor. Bachmann nailed her for the mealy-mouthed response.” Clark never really had a chance, but Burcum’s point is worth digesting.

And yes, even Scott Johnson is on to something when he mocks the Star Tribune’s polling that showed Mark Dayton with a comfortable lead right up to this past weekend. Says the Powerline blogger: “This campaign season the Star Tribune published Minnesota Polls showing Democrat Mark Dayton with wide leads over Republican Tom Emmer. We noted the bizarre partisan breakdown of the late September poll sample showing Republicans at 28 percent, lower even than the 2008 exit survey that showed Republicans in Minnesota at 36 percent. Even an amateur could see Republicans were going to do better than that this year. While the Minnesota Poll showed Dayton with a strong lead, Rasmussen and SurveyUSA/KSTP showed the race to be neck and neck. … I conclude that the Minnesota Poll is up to its old tricks.” He concludes by saying: “I would like to reiterate a point I made eight years ago. If I were the editor or publisher of the Star Tribune, I would be seriously concerned about, if not mightily embarrassed by, the quality of my product. If the Star Tribune’s poll product were edible instead of legible, it would long ago have been recalled as dangerous to human health, or it would have killed off its customers. We can only hope that some day the Star Tribune cares as much about the quality of its news product as McDonald’s does about the quality of its hamburgers.” It would be interesting to hear the Strib’s explanation for this.

The departure of Jim Oberstar with his influential committee power in D.C. has the attention of CBS Moneywatch in regard to airline mergers. Writes Brett Snyder, “This means the airlines will lose a key opponent when it comes to mergers, though to be fair, Oberstar rarely if ever had an impact on the outcome of those mergers. … There’s no question that [winner Chip] Cravaack won’t be a concern for airlines. He comes from the shrinking-government, pro-business mindset that dominated many of candidate platforms this year. And there really doesn’t seem to be other candidates ready to carry the torch on the merger issue, at least not yet. Oberstar is currently the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and he has used that as a bully pulpit to decry airline mergers, even to the point of suggesting re-regulation to stop them.”

John Lundy in the Duluth News-Tribune interviews Cravaack, who is unimpressed with projects like the Northern Lights St. Paul-to-Duluth train, the Willard Munger bicycle trail and such. “The Munger Trail extension fits Cravaack’s definition of a want rather than a need. ‘Until we get rid of $13.6 trillion in debt … I’d rather put those funds in making sure the southbound I-35 lane is smoothed out right about at Sandstone,’ he said. ‘These are great trails … but at the same time we have to be able to prioritize where we spend those federal dollars without adding to the debt.’ ” And Cravaack’s position on the deficit vis a vis extending the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy is … ?

MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill does a voter reaction piece on the Oberstar defeat: “Bob Lloyd, a retired St. Louis County public works superintendent on the eastern end of the Iron Range, Oberstar’s home territory, said he voted for Oberstar for many of the congressman’s nearly 36 years in office. But as he got older and more set, he was one of the ones that wanted more and bigger government,’ Lloyd said. ‘His transportation job went to his head and he became a big spender. The last several years I could no longer support his government growth and spending ways.’ ” Well, Mr. Lloyd can forget about being morally offended by any “pork” rolling into his district.

In the realm of aviation and big business, Delta’s flight attendants voted down an attempt to unionize them along with their Northwest compadres. A Business Journal story says: “Atlanta-based Delta and Northwest flight attendants began voting Sept. 29 on union representation through the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. The National Mediation Board announced that the majority of votes cast were for ‘no representative.’ The union said it will file a series of objections following the vote count, including ‘serious charges of interference’ against Delta. In the meantime, it asked all Delta flight attendants to remember they are all ‘on the same team,’ despite the vote.” Does Delta charge the unionized flight attendants to hang their jackets in the crew closet?

OK, so in hindsight the Brainerd woman who is — still — battling the Recording Industry of America over the downloading of 24 songs probably should have taken the last deal. That would be the one that would have had her paying “only” $25,000. She didn’t, and a third trial, this one on the amount of damages alone,  requires her to pony up $1.5 million. James Walsh’s Strib story says: “It is not yet known if [Jammie] Thomas-Rasset will appeal. Neither she nor her attorney, Kiwi Camera, was immediately available for comment. In closing arguments to the jury, Camera had argued that while Thomas-Rasset had downloaded the music, the music industry could not prove it was damaged. Frankly, she did the industry no harm, he said. ‘She may have engaged in the conduct,’ he said. ‘That doesn’t mean they can take her head and stick it up on a pole.’ Camera told jurors that out of millions of people downloading music without paying every day — with some, in fact, simply getting letters telling them to stop — the RIAA arbitrarily singled out Thomas-Rasset.”

Coverage of the precedent-rich case on the Ars Technica blog says: “Rather than look evasive on the stand, she tried to accept (some) responsibility and instead make a case for a minimum damage award based on her personal circumstances. She told the jury about life on the Ojibwe reservation here in Minnesota. She described her four children. She talked about meeting her husband on She stressed the length of this case, the ‘huge impact’ it has made on her life, the way ‘I have been passed up for promotion because of the publicity of this.’ Her kids’ teachers even ask them about the progress of the case. Then came the money. Thomas-Rasset said she lived (and still to some extent lives) paycheck to paycheck. She rang up $100,000 in fees from her first attorney, who eventually bailed on her case but did forgive the debt. Her current lawyers are working pro bono. She told the jury that a $36,000 damage award, one twice the bare minimum, would be ‘roughly my salary from my job every year’ and that even the $18,000 minimum would ‘devastate my family.’ ” Don’t you think this one has gotten completely out of hand?

The seven “nice guys” in the prostitution ring revealed in a Strib story over a year ago were finally charged Wednesday. Dave Chanen writes: “The alleged ringleader of the Nice Guys, former assistant Hennepin County attorney John St. Marie, 66, was charged three months ago with six felony counts of promoting prostitution. He has a court appearance scheduled next week. The accusations against the Nice Guys became public in a Star Tribune article more than a year ago. The complex case also helped bring down, the Twin Cities’ largest locally owned prostitution website. According to court documents, several of the Nice Guys said they used the site to find prostitutes, with one willing to pay $1,200 for an escort because reviews from other patrons indicated she was ‘passionate.’ ” Then, of course, maybe she was just pretending.