GOP leaders reacted angrily Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tactic of all but projecting Al Franken the victor over incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, even as Minnesota election officials continue to count the votes.
"At this stage, it appears that Franken will be certified the winner by the State Canvassing Board,” said a statement Reid’s office released Tuesday. “We're keeping abreast of the situation and will make a decision with regard to Senate action at the appropriate point in the process."
Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a leading contender for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, blasted Reid for politicizing the recount.
"The American people will see right through Harry Reid’s crass partisan power grab,” Blackwell tells Newsmax. “He wants to manufacture a filibuster-proof majority to push through his liberal agenda. Americans expect fairness, but Reid is offering political games. There are over 1,300 disputed ballots in Minnesota that must be resolved before anyone is seated.”
Adds Blackwell, "This is just another example of the sleazy political boss antics that has Harry Reid at risk of losing his own Senate seat in Nevada."
Michael B. Thielen, executive director of the Republican National Lawyers Association, tells Newsmax that Reid’s statement is “incredibly premature.”
“To say the race is ready to be certified is ridiculous,” Thielen says. “We’ve still got a long way to go, including the issue of double-counting of ballots, which has to be resolved by the courts.”
The Reid statement appeared to be part of a concerted effort by Democrats to begin to make a Franken win appear a foregone conclusion, despite the fact that as many as 2,000 improperly rejected absentee ballots have yet to be counted.
On Tuesday, Franken issued a statement proclaiming that “it appears that we’re on track to win.” He added, “I want Minnesotans to know that I’m ready to get to work for them in Washington on day one.”
That statement closely followed comments from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urging that the U.S. Senate should seat Franken provisionally when the new Congress convenes, even if state authorities haven’t certified him the winner yet.
That touched a raw nerve with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who charged that Franken “is falsely declaring victory based on an artificial lead created on the back of the double counting of ballots.”
Cornyn blamed Franken’s campaign and Klobuchar’s statement for sowing “chaos and disorder in the Minnesota recount.”
Cornyn added, “Minnesotans will not accept a recount in which some votes are counted twice, and I expect the Senate would have a problem seating a candidate who has not duly won an election."
Earlier in the recount process — when it was Coleman who held a narrow lead — Reid’s inclination to seat the winner of the Minnesota Senate race was quite different.
On Nov. 26, Reid issued a statement that the recount gave him “cause for great concern.”
“As the process moves forward,” Reid warned, “Minnesota authorities must ensure that no voter is disenfranchised. A citizen’s right to have his or her vote counted is fundamental in our democracy.”
That statement was widely viewed as signaling Reid might oppose seating Coleman if he won by a narrow margin.
RNC Chairman Mike Duncan stated on Tuesday, “Al Franken’s declarations of victory are as inaccurate as they are premature.”
Reid’s involvement in the heated Senate race is beginning to rankle political leaders on the state level as well.
Minnesota GOP Chairman Ron Carey told Newsmax Wednesday afternoon: “Harry Reid's insertion of Senate Democrats into this process is entirely inappropriate. Minnesotans should have the final say who represents them in Washington, not Senate Democrat leaders. Minnesota has a process that will verify Norm Coleman was elected to continue to serve as our senior senator.”
That Democrats are shifting their focus from searching for votes to laying the groundwork for Franken’s coronation comes as no surprise to Wall Street Journal author and commentator John Fund.
“The game of recount is you count, you count, you count until you’re ahead — and then you stop counting,” he tells Newsmax.
Fund notes, however, that Democrats’ insistence that they will not seat Barack Obama’s proposed Senate replacement, Roland Burris, in Illinois may openly contradict their rush to seat Franken.
“Having the Burris nomination and the Franken-Coleman fight at the same time presents Democrats with a dilemma: Do they seat one, both, or none?” Fund says.
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