January 21st, 2009
05:30 PM ET
9 years ago

Despite long odds, Coleman confident he will beat Franken

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota, began packing his Capitol Hill office Wednesday, but indicated he has no intention of giving up his legal fight to serve another term in Congress.

Coleman trails Democrat Al Franken by 225 votes. But in an interview with CNN, Coleman called Franken’s lead “artificial,” and expressed hope that the Minnesota courts will rule in his favor on ballot disputes when they take up the question next week.

“I really do have a sense of confidence that this will work itself out the right away,” Coleman said.

Franken, the comedian-turned liberal talk show host-turned political candidate, was also on Capitol Hill Wednesday meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, “to discuss the legislative agenda, especially the economic stimulus” plan, a Reid spokesman said.

Back in Minnesota, lawyers for the two men met with a three-judge panel in the afternoon to hear arguments brought by Franken's attorneys that Coleman's pending legal challenge to contest the recount results should be dismissed.

“We have got a good shot at this and so I proceed with that in mind,” he said. “But logistically you have to move out of the office.”

For the time being, Coleman plans to send his Senate papers to the Minnesota Historical Society, but with the caveat that they would be returned if he overcomes Franken’s lead and wins a second term. He was first elected in 2002.

Coleman was once viewed as a rising star in the Senate, and often mentioned for leadership positions within the Senate Republican Conference. In 2004, Coleman lost a bid to run the National Republican Senatorial Committee to Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-North Carolina, by one vote. Now, he is fighting for his political life, and removing the pictures from his Senate office walls.

“It is really hard,” he said. “It is hard on multiple levels. It is hard certainly an emotional level. I wonder what folks, who have been here 24 years or 18 years, they have to pack up. There are a lot of memories. And then there is a practical side … we have a sense of confidence we are coming back.”

One of the many perks senators are afforded is a front-row seat to presidential inaugurations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, gave Franken tickets so he could attend President Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. Coleman watched it at home in Minnesota.

“I would have loved to have the opportunity to have been there as a member of the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Circumstance didn’t provide that, but I celebrated the moment like everybody else. It was a great day for America yesterday.”

At about the same time Wednesday that Coleman was striking an optimistic tone, Reid was chiding the Republican senator for not conceding the race to Franken.

“There is no way that Coleman can win this,” Reid said. “The numbers just aren't there. He should concede. There (are) a lot of people who did the same thing and it's better for them. Polls in Minnesota show that about half the people are upset at Franken, I'm sorry, I mean upset at Coleman asking for this additional work.”

A Reid spokesman said that at some point he may attempt to seat Franken, but cautioned that no decision has been made yet.

The Minnesota seat is the only vacancy in the Senate, which Democrats control by a 58 to 41 margin. Should Franken prevail, Democrats would be one vote shy of the magic number of 60, which would give them the power to muscle through major legislative initiatives over Republican objections.

Coleman predicted that Reid would not dare to seat Franken until legal proceedings are resolved, because he has not been presented with a signed election certificate by state officials. For weeks, Reid would not acknowledge Roland Burris as the junior senator from Illinois because his certificate lacked the secretary of state’s signature.

“I am quite confident that the United States Senate will not seat someone without a signed election certificate,” he said. “And I believe that will be handled in a bipartisan way.”

Coleman said that if he loses the election, he is certain that he will land on his feet in academia, private practice or another public service role.

“I am not wringing my hands over it,” he said. “My being is not defined by being a United States senator. I have given my life to public service.”

Coleman added, “I am confident that we will be back on top.”

–CNN’s Chris Welch and Ted Barrett contributed to this report

Filed under: Minnesota Senate race • Norm Coleman
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Justin from New Haven, CT

    Coleman can be confident that he'll be packing up his stuff soon you mean.

    January 21, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  2. RaeofSun

    This is the dumbest, most slow news story ever. I heard this plea weeks ago. Unfortunately, I am having a hard time finding someone to fault for the fact I have to read this tired old story again. Let's have another election. At least, I think that would be a lot more interesting (and as just as much a waste of money.) I think we could reach the end faster, anyway. TG I don't live in Minnesota, so I don't have to care too much.

    January 21, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  3. alvino

    Let Big Al in the senate. Coleman's days are over.

    January 21, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  4. Bald Ex-Soldier

    With a race this close, I cannot blame Coleman for trying to keep it going. But that said, it is time for us to move on. It is obvious that the mood of the nation has changed and it isn't in the way of conservatives.

    All I can say is that if Coleman is a man interested in his own words, then he sould take his own advice and accept the ruling as it stands and bow out. Just the way he suggested Franken do when it looked like Coleman won.

    The election board spoke and it was in Franken's favor. Let's get on with running the country. Not mire it in yet more legal battles that cost us taxpayers more money for no tangible good.

    January 21, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  5. Fred C Dobbs

    Coleman or Franken, either way the people of Minnesota come up the loser.

    January 21, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  6. email4kh


    You mean like having fewer votes?

    January 21, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  7. Darth Vadik, CA

    How the hell did the Minnesotans give Coleman, Paul Wellstones seat to begin with?
    What the hell were you thinking?

    January 21, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  8. Darth Vadik, CA

    While Coleman is playing around in courts, thinking a court would again put a republican in a seat unfairly, Al is allready starting to work for the people of Minnesota.

    GO AL

    January 21, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  9. Dave Sneddon

    Didn't Mr. Coleman ask Senator Franken to waive the automatic recount required by state law and say that if he were behind after the votes were counted he would have conceded? Now that he is behind after the votes have all been counted is he not intending to concede as he said he would?

    January 21, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  10. Seattle Sue

    Mr. Coleman, why don't you pack up and go visit Mr. Bush?

    January 21, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  11. Kris in AL



    January 21, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  12. Matt Shine

    As much as I do hope that Franken prevails in this debate, I do not think Harry Reid should have offered tickets to one of them but not the other, or should be giving advice to stop challenging. It sounds petty. It's Coleman's call whether to proceed or not and Reid should respect that as much as he would respect it is Franken was fighting at such a handicap.

    January 21, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  13. oleander

    Mr Coleman needs to suck it up and get on with his life.

    January 21, 2009 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    We'll see, but I think Franken's lead is going to hold up. Try again in 6 years?

    January 21, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  15. raagos


    January 22, 2009 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
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