Minnesota Recount: Anything you can do, I can do better

Not too much to report on the recount today in Minnesota for the US Senate race between Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman, except that the Coleman campaign has reduced its challenges to more or less the same number as Franken.  Both campaigns have now withdrawn about a third of their original ballot challenges, bringing the total number to over 4,000.  The move shows that both campaigns have tried mirroring the others, and demonstrates the strategy employed by both throughout the recount process:

Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign is withdrawing another 475 ballots that it challenged during the U.S. Senate recount, the lead campaign attorney said today.

That makes 1,125 challenges that the Republican candidate’s campaign has withdrawn, Fritz Knaak said.

That number approximates the number of challenged ballots that the campaign of DFLer Al Franken has yanked. On Monday, the Franken campaign announced that it was pulling back 425 challenges, on top of about 630 it withdrew last week.

Each campaign now has more than 2,000 challenged ballots left to be decided by the state Canvassing Board, which will meet next Tuesday to determine how they should be counted.

Team Franken lashed out at the Star Tribune today, criticizing its vote totals and claiming that they have the lead.  Franken’s lawyers tried to explain that they have better challenges than Coleman’s team, a point that will get settled by the Canvassing Board.  Minnesota Public Radio disagreed with that assessment after sampling one-sixth of the original ballot challenges.  One presumes that neither campaign would have parted with likely winners in the challenges.

So why did they issue so many challenges in the first place?  Both sides have learned lessons from the Christine Gregoire recount victory over Dino Rossi in Washington.  Democrats challenged everything they could, while Republicans scoffed at their profligacy.  The last laugh was on the GOP, though, because the challenges provided Gregoire her margin of victory.

Coleman’s team wanted to make sure that they didn’t fall for the same strategy.  They’ve been as aggressive as Franken has, and as MPR discovered, have apparently found better challenges.  Now that the recount is finished, Team Franken realizes that the Gregoire approach didn’t work, and they want to show some reasonableness in shedding the most ridiculous challenges to speed up the board’s work.  As long as Franken keeps declining challenges, expect Coleman to do the same.