What is Tim Pawlenty Doing in Minnesota? [UPDATED]

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 5 2010 1:02 PM

What is Tim Pawlenty Doing in Minnesota? [UPDATED]

UPDATE: I didn't make it clear initially that Minnesota law spurs a recount if the margin between a winner and loser is less than 0.5% of the vote. So Tim Pawlenty is following the letter of the law when he talks about sticking around until the election is decided. Please interpret the headlines as less "WHAT FOUL TRICKERY IS AFOOT" and more "Seriously, Pawlenty could be governor for longer?"

Tim Pawlenty is raising the possibility of extending his time in office as governor of Minnesota.

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Pawlenty said Thursday, "I earnestly, genuinely, sincerely hope this is resolved by January 3rd" -- when his term officially ends. If issues arise, he said, he would do his duty, but "I won't go out looking for them."...  If the stalemate continues past Jan. 3, Pawlenty would continue as chief executive as the legislative session gets underway. GOP legislators could act quickly to send a budget-cutting bill to him to sign rather than waiting for a likely veto should Dayton prevail.

What stalemate? As of today, Democrat Mark Dayton has a 8,753 lead in unofficial results. There were 2,107,018 votes cast; 1,829,695 votes were cast for either Dayton or Republican Tom Emmer. So Dayton's lead over Emmer is 0.48%, and greater than the number of outstanding absentee ballots. By contrast, Democrat Pat Quinn's lead over Republican Bill Brady in Illinois was 19,413 votes when the AP called the election, a 0.57% advantage for Quinn. Recounts can overturn electoral margins, and half of one percent is usually the margin states propose for allowing a recount. But they are never overturned when they're about half of one percent and there is not a pile of questioned ballots larger than the difference between the winner and loser.

So the state GOP is basically searching for revenge for its close 2008 loss to Al Franken. Read the commentary from state GOP Chairman Tony Sutton: His argument is that the Democratic secretary of state is tied to ACORN (which no longer exists), and that Dayton's victory doesn't make sense because Republicans did well in other state races, and won the legislature. If Pawlenty's a statesman, he has to realize that this is nonsense, and that continuing to serve as governor if a margin this big stands but Emmer demands a recount would be a hideous power-grab. Emmer would be standing down a bigger proportional vote gap than the one George Allen faced against Jim Webb in 2006.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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