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The Coleman-steele Nexus

Will Norm Coleman concede if and when the Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Al Franken is the rightful winner of the 2008 Senate election? Not according to RNC chair Michael Steele:

No, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it's going to get bumped to the next level. This does not end until there's a final ruling that speaks to whether or not those votes that have not been counted should be counted. And Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that.

Although plenty of Republicans have suggested that Coleman should keep fighting in the federal courts, none have been as aggressive on the subject as Steele. Now part of that, obviously, is that Steele has a greater tendency than most to utter loudly the first thing that comes into his head. But I can't help but be reminded of a blind nugget that Politico ran two months ago, claiming that the "word on the street" was that "the next RNC chairman will be Norm Coleman, after he loses his recount fight and big donors see Michael Steele’s March numbers." 

Now the Politico item, which was unsourced, could easily be wrong. But someone was at least floating the idea of replacing Steele with Coleman, and Steele knows it. Moreover, the precariousness of Steele's chairmanship is abundantly clear, as he's already lost at least two internal battles in the last few weeks. Encouraging Coleman to continue his pyrrhic legal fight might look to Steele like a pretty good way to keep a potential competitor for his job out of circulation.

Indeed, at this point, one could probably make the case that Coleman is getting less out of his protracted legal campaign than quite a few other Republicans: Steele gets to stumble along without at least one obvious replacement in the wings, and Coleman's former Senate colleagues have to deal with one fewer Democrat in the majority. For Coleman himself, though, the likelihood that he'll ultimately prevail is vanishingly small, and if he keeps fighting after the ruling, he may harm his favorability in the state and dim any future prospects. Then again, given that Coleman is still under FBI investigation, it may be best not to make long-term plans...

--Christopher Orr