Aides to Al Franken told reporters on Thursday afternoon that their chances of winning a recount election against Norm Coleman looked far more positive than even Wednesday evening's optimistic reports suggest.
Speaking to reporters in person and on phone, Marc Elias, the Franken campaign's chief counsel, said that the early recount results (which decreased the margin separating the Democratic challenger and Coleman by 43 votes) actually underestimated the ground gained.
"We do in fact feel very good about how the first day of the recount went... We believe that through last night, 26.5 percent of the ballots were hand counted. And that represents slightly three percent more of the Coleman vote or Republican vote than was true during the election. And nevertheless we picked up a significant chunk of votes," said Elias. "In other words, the ballots counted yesterday were more Republican than the total ballot pool will end up being. It was a slightly redder pile versus what it will finally be. And not withstanding that slightly redder view, we picked up votes yesterday. In fact, we believe that number is higher than the 43 votes reflected on the Secretary of State's official margin."
Elias declined to reveal just how many recount votes the campaign has internally calculated, saying it would lead to endless speculation and inspection. He added that the campaign did feel "very good about how the first day of the recount went." And while it's possible that Coleman will expand the margin as the recount proceeds, the Franken team was heartened that their position had improved even in traditionally Republican areas.
On Wednesday, it was reported by the Minnesota Secretary of State's office that Franken had narrowed Coleman's lead from 215 votes to 172, with over 80% of ballots left to be sorted out. A study by Dartmouth Professor Michael C. Herron showed that the majority of the undervote -- the difference between the total number of individuals who voted and the total number of individuals who voted in the Senate race -- came from predominantly Democratic counties. While many of the estimated 34,000 undervotes were likely deliberate (people intentionally voted in the presidential contest but not the Senate one), there seemed likely to be enough non-deliberate undervotes to push Franken to victory.
"Yesterday's reports should put to rest the false notion that the vote shift we saw during the canvas [the final official reporting of ballots] were, in the Coleman campaign's word, 'implausible and statistically dubious,'" said Franken spokesperson Andy Barr. "We are feeling confident. And in Al's words, cautiously optimistic, about the directions things are headed."