I hope I’m wrong. But Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (R) apparent decision not to seek reelection does not bode well for Al Franken’s ability to get seated in the senate any time soon. That’s because the most probable next step in the endless Franken-Coleman drama is that the Minnesota Supreme Court will rule in Franken’s favor and it will fall to Pawlenty to issue the certificate of election that will get him seated in the senate. The details are sort of murky. But the upshot is that Pawlenty will likely have just enough wiggle room to refuse to do so, if he wishes, perhaps using the excuse of possible litigation on Coleman’s behalf in the federal judiciary.
As long as he was going to run for governor and had to face Minnesota voters again, there was good reason for him not to completely stick his finger in the eye of the election process. But now that’s not holding him back. And since he’s probably running for president, he’ll have tons of incentive to pander to the hardcore tea-bagging wing of the GOP and keep Franken out of the senate as long as he can.
Late Update: Several readers make the good point that much depends on just how the Supreme Court rules for Franken, assuming they rule in his favor. It’s possible the Court could give quite specific instructions to Pawlenty, which he’d be hard-pressed to ignore. So the devil will be in the details of the ruling.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.