December 3, 2008

Has Al Franken Snapped?

Hatched by Dafydd

The campaign of failed comedian Al Franken has just made an astonishing announcement: They now claim that Franken is ahead of Norm Coleman (R-MN, 64%) in the recount:

Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken’s campaign said Wednesday that the comedian has taken the lead in his race against Sen. Norm Coleman (R).

Franken’s lawyer, Marc Elias, has been pressing for the media to focus on the campaign’s internal vote totals of the recount, which as of Wednesday showed Franken opening a lead of 22 votes.

Of course, nobody else sees Al Franken with a lead; he would have to use a very special metric to arrive at that conclusion... and of course, he does. This is the key:

The media have reported that Franken trails in the recount by around 300 votes, but that includes challenged ballots. Coleman’s campaign has challenged several hundred more ballots than Franken’s, but the vast majority of challenges are generally rejected.

Elias argues that, since most challenges will be invalidated, a more accurate count would not include those challenged ballots.

In other words, Politico reports that the Franken team is subtracting from the count all ballots that have been challenged by either side. Politico reports that the Franken campaign claims that when they do so, Franken picks up a net 320+ votes, putting him into the lead.

But there is a problem with the statement, and I don't know whether the mistake was Marc Elias's or Politico's: If it's true that "the vast majority of challenges are generally rejected," then what the Franken campaign means is that they want to count all the ballots... including the ones that are challenged, on the theory that the "vast majority" of challenges (not ballots) will be rejected.

Since the Coleman campaign has challenged more ballots than the Franken campaign, then if all the challenged ballots are added back in, Franken would pick up more votes than Coleman. That is the only calculation that makes sense (from the Franken point of view), so that must be what Elias said (or at least what he meant to say). Either Elias misspoke, or more likely, Politico miswrote.

But this opens up another can of monkeys; by suggesting this metric for determining who is ahead at any moment, Elias makes the hidden assumption that all challenges are equally invalid -- that the challenges made by Coleman against Franken votes) are no more likely to be found valid than the challenges made by Franken against Coleman votes. You follow?

This is the classic "split the difference" fallacy: You have two kids, John and Mary, and one pie. John wants to divide the pie into two equal pieces... but Mary thinks she should get the whole pie to herself. Seeing the impasse, Mary suggests she and her brother "split the difference" -- and give Mary 3/4ths of the pie.

The fallacy is the assumption that all claims are equally valid. In fact, facially, John's claim seems much more reasonable, while Mary's appears more frivolous. Further information can change this presumption: Perhaps Mary won the pie in a contest against John. In that case, Mary's claim is valid, and John's is frivolous or even mendacious. But in neither case is the proper answer to "split the difference;" the individual claims must be adjudicated.

In the present context, Coleman wants each challenge to be evaluated; but Al Franken simply wants all of them summarily rejected, thus giving him a huge chunk of votes. But what if Coleman has more challenges that are likely to be ruled valid than Franken? In that case, fewer of Coleman's claims would be rejected, so he would actually pick up votes, not lose them. It's irrelevant which side has filed more challenges; it only matters how many challenges on each side will be accepted.

Even if Al Franken has lost his mind, his campaign mangler has not. If they are calling for all challenges to be dropped, then they must believe they've made far more frivolous claims than has Coleman. Thus they expect to lose even more votes once the challenges are adjudicated, and they would be overjoyed to see all challenges wiped away, putting them on top. Simply put, the Franken campaign is not going to call for a remedy that would leave Franken in a worse position than he would be under the default remedy of deciding each individual claim on its merits.

The only fact situation that fits Franken's new metric is that far more Coleman challenges are valid than Franken challenges... and Al Franken (and Marc Elias) are well aware of it.

But every challenge on either side occurred with poll watchers from both campaigns present; Coleman's campaign watchers must know the character of all of Franken's challenges compared to their own.

This, then, is a wild "hail Mary" play; Franken has the audacity to hope that the Coleman campaign is so incompetent or so lazy, it agrees simply to hand the election to Franken, rather than go through all the fuss and bother of actually evaluating each challenge, case by case.

I ask whether Al Franken's mind has snapped because no rational person would expect his opponent to concede a race that he believes he has won, and in which he is ahead in the count. It would be like Gore demanding Bush agree to divide Florida absentee ballots equally between them; only a madman would make such a bizarre (and DOA) proposal. A sane candidate would want to preserve at least a shred of dignity, if not decency, and retain his viability for future campaigns.

Nor will this influence Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) to take up the progressive man's burden and try to put together a Senate majority to seat Franken, not Coleman, in January. Reid won't move on this plan; not unless he doesn't mind a seal-kill of Democrats in 2010. Nobody cares that much for Al Franken. Not even Harry Reid.

I believe the fat lady -- or in this case, the humor-impaired "comedian" -- is singing "uncle."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 3, 2008, at the time of 6:23 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Jon Katz

Dude, you are confused.

Challenged ballots are not included in the totals. If all challenges are overruled, Franken's challenges will be added to the totals for Coleman and 'other', while Coleman's challenges will be added to the totals of Franken and 'other'. Franken knows that Coleman has made more frivolous challenges than Franken and, therefore, Franken will get more votes added back to his score.

Franken NEVER asked Coleman to concede and Franken has NOT asked that all challenges be overruled. He just believes that that is a reasonable starting point for an estimation of the outcome.

P.S. How many damn times do I have to sign in before this site lets me post?

The above hissed in response by: Jon Katz [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 3, 2008 10:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Jon Katz

I admit that I was the one that was confused, at least in my first paragraph, but my second paragraph still holds true. Franken is only approximating the results the best way he can. He is NOT asking for Coleman to concede. Sure, he might be embellishing a tad, but it really doesn't matter since that will not affect how those ballots are reviewed. I just find it funny that so many people are calling foul over irrelevant things.

The above hissed in response by: Jon Katz [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 3, 2008 10:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Jon Katz:

P.S. How many damn times do I have to sign in before this site lets me post?

It's not "this site," it's TypeKey, which is now part of TypePad. I'm sure that eventually, it will work better than it did as TypeKey; but at the moment, everyone seems to be experiencing some problems.

Here's a rah-rah FAQ about the merger or subsumation or whatever happened.

I'm assuming the problems will be sorted out soon. But there's really nothing we can do, other than stop relying on TypeKeyPad, or whatever it's called, and have our own proprietary login thingie... which sounds like more work than it's worth.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 3, 2008 11:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive

The 'rules' and contortions of ballot procedure that Franken and his surrogates drivel on about are intentionally confusing, and amount to a smokescreen. The important part of their verbal campaign is not the tortured justification, but simply the claiming of a lead in the counting.

This would have been laughed out of town in other times, particularly if journalism had not morphed imperceptibly into yet another asset for lefty partisanship. But the MSM megaphone is perfectly placed to repeat the big lie of the 'lead in the ballot count' up to the point where it's credible to some fraction of auditors. In addition to the slogan of 'count every ballot' (no matter how counterfeit or rule-breaking), the noise of the Franken supporters will build up until someone will bend over backwards to be 'fair' by applying or inventing rules that do confer an advantage to the Franken side.

The learned 'journalists' should be applying some of their famous skepticism to this verbal campaign. But reflecting the corrupt behavior of the Washington state media in the 2004 election, they won't do it - they'll do nothing to prevent or illuminate the theft of an election, provided it benefits the left.

Be prepared to hear a lot more about this mythical 'lead' in the count, and the oh-so-righteous demands for higher intervention into the election process to preserve it.

The above hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 4, 2008 7:56 AM

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

Dafydd, what do you mean by "Has"? Please cite any evidence you have that Al Franken has EVER been sane, especially during any part of the last 8 years.

The real question is have Senate Democrats ALSO snapped? Thanks to the citizens of Georgia, their chances of a party-line filibuster-proof Senate are now lost, but there are enough RINO's in the state of Maine ALONE to render that distinction meaningless,...

unless they pull something so nakedly partisan as the in-your-face theft of a Senate seat that is. Why Senators Snowe and Collins could develop spines in response! Besides, do Democrats really want to saddle themselves with a lunatic as nasty as Al Franken is when they have nothing to gain for it?

We shall see, but remember the old saying:

"Whom God would destroy, He first makes Democrat."

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 4, 2008 4:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

I always thought Franken's little skits at the end of SNL were stupid.
The one tag line he ever had that was somewhat cute was the one that ended ".....and by golly, they just like him."
He is a creation of insider-hood. He has never had his own show. His books are niche products. His radio experience was a dismal failure.
There are enough stories about his rude, demeaning boorish behavior from multiple sources as to be credible.
His borderline business practices are documented and should have been prosecuted.
His ties to Minnesota are tenuous and not serious.
That Franken is even this close at all against Coleman is evidence of how far Bush let the Republican brand slide.
I hope Coleman prevails. I have put up money to see this happen. He is an effective Senator. He is hardworking. He stood up to the UN. He ahs deep Minnesota roots. He has served without scandal. And by golly, people just seem to like him.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 6, 2008 5:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: Karmi

Ditto on FredTownWard's - "Please cite any evidence you have that Al Franken has EVER been sane, especially during any part of the last 8 years."

The above hissed in response by: Karmi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 6, 2008 9:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: antimedia

Franken is an idiot. With 100% of the recount counted, Coleman leads by 192 votes. Franken's only hope is to win more of his challenges than Coleman does of his. Even then his chances of overcoming a 192 vote lead are very slim.

If Franken was a decent human being he would concede and end this charade. But Franken is not a decent human being.

The above hissed in response by: antimedia [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2008 2:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Don

The votes which are Needed to Make Al Franken Senator from Minnesota will be Found.

The nation's most autoritative (solvent) news source reports that 31 more Franken votes were discovered yesterday during the autopsy of a Minneapolis businessman.

The above hissed in response by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 15, 2008 1:55 PM

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