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The Conservative Case Against Coleman

Ramesh Ponnuru makes it:

If he keeps up the fight, he is likely to lose, unnecessarily deprive Minnesota of a second senator, end his political career seen as a sore loser, and hurt his party in a state that is eager for this fight to be over. His team has talked enough about further legal challenges that if he leaves now, he will get some points for grace. (Needless to say, that sentiment would not be universal.) But this is, I think, the last moment where he can exit with some dignity.

Ponnuru is writing this from D.C., but I think he hits on a key point--and that's the split between Minnesota Republicans and national ones. You can see this split illustrated quite nicely in the remarks of former Minnesota Republican Senator David Durenberger, who recently complained to the Minnesota Post about John Cornyn's desier to see the Coleman-Franken legal battle drag on for years:

"Those jerks have been doing that to us in Minnesota and in other states for a very long time," Durenberger said.

He spoke of the decision in 2002 by the White House to have Coleman run for Senate and Tim Pawlenty for governor, even though Pawlenty was eyeing the Senate seat, too.

"I don't know how the Democratic Party operates because I'm not one of them," Durenberger said. "But every time we had an opening, somebody like Karl Rove and (George W. Bush campaign manager) Ken Mehlman and the Republican apparatchiks in the White House decide who is going to represent Minnesota. Closed out the party, closed out everybody else. That's what's going on now … 'We will continue to fund you, just to keep the Democrat out of the Senate.' At some point, somebody has to deal with what's the will of the people of Minnesota."

With that sort of Washington power being flexed, Durenberger said, an individual like Coleman, who is not a rich man, "can't make practical decisions — you can't make your own decisions."

Durenberger's last point puts Coleman's whole situation in stark relief. Does he throw in the towel in order to help his party in Minnesota--which will likely be hurt by a drawn-out legal battle? Or does he drag out the appeals process in order to help himself--by ingratiating himself to national Republicans who might be able to find him some cushy gigs (or at the very least contribute to his legal defense fund) once he does inevitably lose? And what about Pawlenty, who will have to decide whether or not to certify Franken's election after the State Supreme Court likely turns down Coleman's appeal? Who does he want to please? The voters in his state? Or the conservative activists who could help him in a 2012 presidential campaign? I think Coleman and Pawlenty will act in Minnesota's best interests, but I might be being a bit naive there.

--Jason Zengerle