THE NEXT PHASE BEGINS IN MINNESOTA…. With the razor-thin margin in the Senate race in Minnesota, the first phase in the Republican strategy was to argue that a statewide recount was a waste of time. It was unpersuasive. So, the second phase is getting underway.

The recount in the Minnesota Senate race hasn’t even begun yet, but already the GOP is working to delegitimize it in advance, by smearing the man who will run it as a partisan Democrat.

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.

In a remarkable coincidence, just as the national Republican Party is going on the offensive, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is also going on the attack, using similar talking points, and going after Mark Ritchie for having a tangential connection to ACORN and (cue scary music) Ironically, the Journal’s editorial board condemns Franken, Democrats, and “left-wing allies” for “waging a full-scale public pressure campaign.”

And to top things off, Republicans have launched a new online resource to “keep watch on what they call ‘shenanigans’ perpetrated by Democrats as the Minnesota Senate recount proceeds.”

If you think all of this is starting to sound a bit like Florida in 2000, we’re on the same page.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.