Norm Coleman on the Ropes

The three way Senate race in Minnesota took another bizarre turn this weekend, leaving all three candidates with a viable shot at becoming Minnesota's next Senator. Before I delve into the details, lets take a look at the current state of the race:

Minnesota Senate Projection Graph

Donate: Al Franken (D), Dean Barkley (I), Norm Coleman (R)

And our Senate to Presidential correlations:

           VFA Projection [10/18]    VFA Projection [11/2]
            Dem    Rep    Dem-Rep    Dem    Rep    Dem-Rep
President  49.98  43.71     6.27    53.61  40.67    12.94
Senate     38.61  40.15    -1.54    40.90  39.32     1.58
Pres-Sen   11.37   3.56     7.81    12.71  -1.35    14.06

Norm Coleman is now polling slightly worse than John McCain, while Franken continues to lag behind the levels established by Obama. If you take the numbers above at face value, Coleman is losing 1.35% of McCain's vote and Barkley appears to be making up the difference between Franken and Obama. If these trends were to continue, Barkley would likely be eliminated but recent events have left the election wide open.

Heading back to last Monday (10/27), Paul McKim, founder and former CEO of Houston-based Deep Marine Technology, filled a lawsuit alleging that an ally funneled $75,000 to the Colemans. Reading directly from the Star Tribune article on the subject, "A Texas businessman has filed a lawsuit alleging that Minnesota multimillionaire Nasser Kazeminy used his Houston marine company to funnel $75,000 to Sen. Norm Coleman last year via a Minneapolis insurance company that employs the senator's wife." The Coleman campaign immediately went to work trying to kill the story, but the DFL may have gotten the best of him:

This suit was later withdrawn, but it didn't end there.

The Coleman campaign responded with a lawsuit of their own; on Thursday October 30th, Norm Coleman filed a defamation lawsuit against Al Franken. The Coleman campaign concluded that "Mr. Franken ha[d] chosen to push the lines of believability far beyond the bounds of the truth." The "truth" Coleman is questioning relates to an ad released by Franken citing Norm Coleman as the "fourth most corrupt senator in Washington." Franken responded by saying this: "Our ads are factual and true, even if Norm Coleman doesn't like being held accountable for his conduct. Every time someone tries to hold Norm Coleman accountable, he runs to court to try to weasel his way out of it. And none of the three prior times he's done this has he been successful, and he won't be this time, either." To be fair the report Franken appears to be citing does not explicitly rank corrupt Senators, but they did place Norm Coleman, along with three other Republican senators in the "Dishonorable Mention" category.

Here's where it gets interesting. The lawsuit filled on Monday by Paul McKim was refiled again Thursday evening, just hours after Coleman's defamation charge. The Coleman campaign responded by calling the suit "false and defamatory...My wife has been devastated by this. She's angry -- and she has a right to be -- and so am I. So Coleman's wife can be angry but Al can't? Seems semi-hypocritical but that's not the most interesting nugget from the quote. The use of "defamatory" was likely intended to cascade into the suit filed against Franken, and it may have worked. If you do a google search for "Coleman Franken Defamatory" the results are roughly split between the two cases, but the issue still lingers.

The Coleman campaign tried to kill the issue again Friday night by saying the premise of the suit was "baseless and [contained] false claims ... being used to influence the outcome of the election.'' Still sensing the urgency Coleman tried to link the funneling charge to Franken; "If my opponents have any shred of decency left in this campaign -- stop attacking my family." Franken's campaign, specifically Colleen Murray released a statement rebutting Coleman's charge; Franken had nothing to do with the lawsuit. In fact the plaintiff justified the timing of the suit by stating that it has "absolutely nothing to do with politics." In any case the Coleman campaign released a new ad overtly linking Franken to the money funneling suit:

If the Coleman campaign is going to make a connection that just blatantly doesn't exist they should at least be consistent. "Yesterday, Coleman's statement segued from the [Star Tribune] receiving a pre-filing 'copy of these false allegations' to Franken 'running vicious, untrue attacks against me' on filing day." I also thought Norm was done with negative ads, but apparently it's not politically convenient anymore.

Al Franken and Norm Coleman clearly have a fight on their hands, but Barkley remains unscathed. Within the entire body of this article Barkley's name was not mentioned. When the last debate occurs later today, Barkley can reside above the fray while Franken and Coleman undoubtedly duke it out. If Barkley strikes the right cord he may very well be able to peel off 5% from each of his opponents and sneak away with a victory. We likely won't know the result of the whole lawsuit situation or the debate until the actual votes are counted.

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