I asked this question at an informal roundtable of colleagues today at lunch. Having invested $75 of my hard-earned money in the Franken campaign, I'm really pissed that it has become such a close vote, now simply a matter of hoping that this .011 percent gap can be overcome in a recount of the optical-scan equivalent of "hanging chads." The Minneapolis Star-Tribune now (as of 11:30 am Friday morning) reports that the official lead of Coleman over Franken is down to 239 votes -- in Pine County (just south of Duluth), "exhausted" election officials mistakenly listed Al with 24 votes in Partridge Township, and then they discovered they missed an important "1" - he had actually received 124 votes!
Now I still hope that a recount will eventually produce a different result -- but why did it have to be so close? As an "investor," I've got two questions:
1) Why didn't Al Franken speak at the Democratic National Convention, as did most of the other Democratic senatorial candidates? The official story has it that Al decided on his own not to speak. Andy Barr, his campaign spokesman, explained that Al had to rush back from Denver to campaign at the Minnesota State Fair. Said Barr to the Strib: "It would be cool to be part of history and the spectacle of the convention, but there's a pretty good spectacle going on here, too." I always suspected that all this was a "warm and fuzzy" cover story for an embargo against Al, who might not have played well with the national audience. The national media loves Franken, and would have highlighted his 3 minutes of air time above all the other obscure Senate candidates -- and someone in the Obama campaign or the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee didn't want the blowback. That's what I suspect.
2) But that leads me to the second & more important question: Why didn't Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama visit Minnesota (where he won the state by 10 points), not even one time, to help a Democratic candidate locked in a tight race? Sure, the Clintons showed up, and Hilary even recorded a misguided television ad whose main point in advocating for Franken was "let's get that 60-seat super majority" -- a hardly ringing issues-oriented message. But where the hell was Obama? Other than a short too-little, too-late and half-hearted phone call to WCCO Radio on election eve, Obama personally stayed out of this race. And there are only two answers:
a) the Franken campaign never asked; or
b) the Obama campaign declined, either because it wanted to distance Obama from a slightly tarnished and "controversial" candidate, or because the Obama campaign was in it only for the "top of the ticket," and couldn't care less about the Senate. And it isn't just in Minnesota: why didn't Obama campaign, not even one time, in Georgia with Democratic senate candidate Jim Martin, who had a chance to unseat the Republican incumbent?
There is something very disturbing about how the Obama campaign allocated the candidate's time in the weeks of the campaign. Would one visit to Minnesota have undermined some grand strategy? And while we're at it, the "assstance" that Senator Charles Schumer (NY) and the DSCC gave to Franken is also worth noting.
Now to give the Franken campaign their credit, they were hounded from the primaries through the Democratic nomination, and then into the general election, by alternate candidates, and I believe they were therefore locked in "tactical mode" the entire duration of the campaign. The Franken campaign did not ever have the opportunity to run a strategic campaign based "on message" -- it was constantly fending off attacks from within the Minnesota Democratic party while trying to keep its focus on Norm Coleman. Apparently, it was more than the Franken campaign could handle. And that's why an Obama visit would've made a great deal of sense.
Like I said, I am pissed.