Coleman Will Have Some Rebuilding To Do
By the end of it, people were tired of the protracted recount process and court battle that left Minnesota with only one U.S. senator until last week, and it's taken a toll on former Sen. Norm Coleman's opinion ratings. He is viewed unfavorably by 52 percent of Minnesotans and favorably by 38 percent, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling. (Caveat: PPP conducts automated polling via telephone, with respondents pressing buttons to indicate their opinions. This is viewed as less reliable by some pollsters and journalists, but, in horse-race polling, Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal has deemed it as accurate as using live interviewers. Today's poll includes results from 1,419 Minnesotans July 7-8, margin of errod +/- 2.5 percent.)
Coleman is widely believed to have his eyes on the governorship, with Tim Pawlenty having announced he won't seek reelection in 2010. But if Coleman is to pull that off, he'll have some image rehabbing to do.
I won't delve into PPP's later questions on how Minnesotans see Coleman's recount and court contests. That question was asked eighth by the recorded interviewer, and, as Blumenthal points out, people have less patience in responding to automated polls, so I'm assuming the results get less reliable by the time respondents have sat through seven questions from a recorded voice. But it's safe to assume that, after losing by just 312 votes in November, people are unhappy with how Coleman handled things from that point forward, and it's likely that his numbers are bad because people now think of him as a sore loser, blaming him for the tiresome delays upon delays in getting a second senator in place. The threshhold number of 60 seats for Democrats, and the national GOP's resultant willingness to support Coleman in his effort to stave off the supermajority, may have left him in poor shape to win a statewide race.
PPP found that all potential Democratic opponents would beat Coleman, but it didn't ask about those matchups until its fifth question. Just one of those Democrats--Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak--had a positive favorable/unfavorable split at 37/24, but none of them are viewed as proportionally unfavorable as Coleman is. But lots of people don't have opinions on them at all.
So will we see Norm Coleman surface again for a high-profile campaign? It will probably depend on whether his numbers stay this low and whether they're corroborated by other polls--and that's yet to be determined. The court contest just eneded, and the bitter taste is bound to fade at least a little bit with time. But unlike his opponents, Coleman is a recognizable figure in the state--everyone knows who he is, and his identity may have been branded permanently by his post-election contests.
I wrote earlier that Coleman comported himself well when he conceded, and that it was good for the GOP that his battle was ending. The conclusiveness of the Minnesota Supreme Court's unanimous ruling was probably a good thing for Coleman, too--barring an actual victory for him--because it closed the door to an appeal and left more time for any impressions that he's a sore loser to simmer out of the public consciousness between now and 2010.