Am I missing something here, or is Norm Coleman's plan in continuing to contest Al Franken's victory in the Minnesota Senate race mostly to deny the Democrats their 59th Senator for as long as possible? I have to imagine that the benefits to Republicans on that count exceed the benefits of Coleman winning times the infinitesimal probability that he comes out ahead.
What seems especially weird is that, if Burris leaves, Coleman's intransigence provides a net benefit to the Democrats until another Illinois Senator is appointed (or elected -- which is the current governor's preference if the bill gets passed, and which would take longer). It would decrease by one the number of Senators needed for cloture. With 98 senators, Democrats would only need two of the three GOP Senators who voted for cloture on the Stimulus.
If Burris resigns and Illinois law is changed to require an election, look for the GOP to pull Coleman's funding right quick.
But by the same token, until Burris leaves, Franken's not being in the Senate is essentially just as useful to Republicans as Coleman's being in the Senate. The marginal value of a Republican senator is almost entirely accounted for by the increased difficulty he or she presents to the Democrats' attempts at achieving cloture, and from that perspective, Franken's not being in the Senate is just as valuable as Coleman's being in it. A 99-member Senate with 58 Democrats requires 2 Republican defections for the Dems to get cloture, exactly the same as a 100-member, Coleman-included Senate that also contains 58 Democrats.
Coleman is doing exactly what the powers that be dictate. As soon as the numbers start to hurt McConnell, Coleman will be hired to perform some disgusting task in the right wing world. He'll be a perfect replacement for Steele, once his finances require him to spend more time with his family.
The Senate is a real pressure point right now. Despite his commendable resolve, Kennedy is very ill and Byrd is very old. To me, it's the threat of a 5 or 6 seat pickup in '10 that will get the republicans' attention. That looks unlikely now, but that seems to be the game to play, making Kansas, Illinois, Connecticut, Kentucky and Pennsylvania as well as Missouri and New Hampshire to be every bit as important as Minnesota.
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