One thing we’ve learned from the 2008 election is that, in a close contest, the National Republican Senatorial Committee will do what campaign committees do best: attack, attack, attack. Even after the votes have been cast.

So, after months of trying to demonize Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman still wound up with a lead of 206 votes and an automatic recount. Now the NRSC has trained its sights on Minnesota’s DFL secretary of state, Mark Ritchie. Zachary Roth at TPM Muckraker had the details.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has been distributing to reporters a three-page “backgrounder” that attacks Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, for having spoken at the Democratic convention this summer, and for having “led a voter registration coalition that included ACORN,” among other alleged sins. … [T]here’s no evidence that Ritchie has ever used his role as the state’s top elections administrator to advantage Democrats. But that likely misses the point of the GOP gambit, which appears to be to cast public doubt on the integrity of the recount process, thereby bolstering Coleman’s claim that’s he’s the rightful winner and that a recount is unnecessary — just the strategy pursued by George Bush’s campaign in Florida in 2000.

And like clockwork, the GOP bobos, starting with Fox News and some conservative columnists like John Lott, have read the script and are reciting their lines faithfully. The NRSC also has started a website,, to serve as a clearinghouse for theories. The Admiral at Lake Minnetonka Liberty floated the ACORN connection.

We’ve got a crooked political hack in Mark Ritchie, the Secretary of State, we’ve got the usual voter fraud people in ACORN, and there is, I believe, cheating going on. … Remember, Mark Ritchie is in bed with ACORN, so he’s hardly a credible guy.

Other bloggers jumped on the fact that Coleman’s margin since election night has gone from more than 800 votes to 206. But Marc Ambinder said no one should be surprised by this development:

[T]here is precedent: in 2006, Republican Senate candidate Mark Kennedy lost 3,500 votes and Democrat Amy Klobuchar lost only 600. (Historically, the canvass tallies this cycle are more accurate than in the past.) To be sure — once the automatic manual hand recount starts — errors should pretty much cancel each other out, in theory. But in practice, the elderly, the young, and the relatively uneducated tend to cast more undervotes.

Two names not mentioned by conservative bloggers are Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris or Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, both of whom were criticized for politicizing their offices. And they seem to believe that, if Mary Kiffmeyer were still SOS, all would be right with the world. But Jeff Rosenberg at Twin Cities Daily Liberal doesn’t remember her stint fondly:

Are the Republicans honestly trying to say that someone like Kiffmeyer would be better to run the recount that Ritchie? I don’t think so. Just look at some of Kiffmeyer’s worst moments:
• She publicly declared her dislike of Minnesota’s same-day voter registration system.
• In a blatant attempt to scare people away from the polls, she issued alerts about terrorists at polling places.
• She declared that the 5 most dangerous words were “separation of church and state.”
• In response to county election officials’ complaints about a new voter-registration system, she suggested it was their fault.

Leave it to a Dean Barkley supporter to be the voice of reason. Steve at What’s Up, Daka:

I understand why conservatives are fighting where they can to get a Coleman victory — close monitoring and court actions to protect Republican voters are appropriate and responsible. What I don’t understand is why there’s been so much effort to undermine the legitimacy of the process in the eyes of the public. Do you really want an electorate that doesn’t believe in the integrity of the system? What does that do to our democracy? This PR campaign to paint any potential Coleman loss as a result of corruption is simply irresponsible. I’m going to be happy with either senator winning, whether it’s by careful recount or a coin toss. I’d prefer Franken, I voted for Barkley, but what matters more to me than either of these is civil order, in following the established rules of the election (including the recount when there’s such a close race) to their logical conclusion. If that’s Coleman, then he’s my Senator. If that’s Franken, then he’s my Senator. And clearly the guy I voted for lost, and I’m OK with that.

If only everyone could be so grown up.