In it, but not of it. TPM DC

President Obama has released this statement on Sen.-elect Al Franken's (D-MN) much-litigated and now final victory in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race:

"I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century."

Who would have thought that something bizarre would happen when Al Franken ran for public office?

In a press conference just now, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) has conceded defeat to the Democratic comedian Franken in the 2008 Senate race -- nearly eight months after Election Day, and six months after the seat went vacant when Coleman's single term had expired. Coleman said that further litigation would damage the state, and congratulated Sen.-elect Franken on his victory. He said his future plans in politics "are a subject for another day."

Coleman also said he would no longer contest the much-litigated matter of which previously-rejected absentee ballots should and should not be let into the count, for which both campaigns had picked out lists to argue over. "I'm not questioning what's counted and what's not counted. The Supreme Court has decided," he said. "We are a nation of laws and not men and women. Now that the court has spoken, it's time to move on and not look back."

Coleman said his phone call with Franken was civil. "It couldn't have been any closer and he understands, what his family has gone through, and what me and my family have gone through," said Coleman. "It was a very personal discussion. I congratulated him and wished him the best, and he responded in kind."

It's been a long and strange journey from there to here. Coleman had initially been ahead of the long-time Democratic activist and dirty comedian right after the election, seemingly winning by around 700 votes the day after the election. But then the state went through the standard process of having the counties all proofread their spreadsheets -- and it turned out he only led by 215.

Then the recount commenced, with ballots from malfunctioning machines or with markings that were too light to be scanned cutting into the lead. Then after the State Canvassing Board adjudicated the ballots that had been challenged by the campaigns for voter intent or illegal voter signatures (and most of these challenges from both sides were completely frivolous, designed to manipulate the totals), it was now Franken who was ahead by 49 votes. Then after extensive litigation on absentee ballot envelopes that had been rejected due to clerical errors by local officials, Franken was then up by 225 votes.

Then Coleman filed a lawsuit to contest the results, contending that a) ballots were let in for Franken that shouldn't have been, b) ballots for Coleman that should have been allowed were not, and c) damaged absentee ballots that had been duplicated ended up being counted twice, favoring Franken. After months and months of litigation, the three-member trial court rejected all of these claims -- and some more previously-rejected ballots that were put in only expanded Franken's victory to 312 votes.

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Lingering in the background of the health care debate in Congress has been the possibility that Democrats won't be able to get as much as they want from Republicans through the normal legislative process and will be forced to advance reform (or elements of reform) through the reconciliation process, which can't be filibustered. That may be a remote possibility, but it significantly changes the political dynamic on the Hill--in absence of this alternative route, meeting the expected 60 vote threshold in the Senate would become, to a greater extent than it already is, the guiding force behind the process.

But ever since Democratic leaders won a battle (with Republicans and conservatives within their own party) to keep the reconciliation option open, they've been notably silent about it, and completely unwilling to wield the threat publicly. Today, Robert Gibbs went as far as anybody I can recall in recent weeks--but he also held his fire.

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Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) has released this statement on apparent Sen.-elect Al Franken's (D) victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

I thank the Minnesota Supreme Court, the three-judge election contest panel, the State Canvassing Board, local election officials, and all campaign staff and volunteers for their extraordinary efforts in bringing this U.S. Senate election to its conclusion.

This unanimous opinion of the Court affirms the accuracy and fairness of Minnesota's election laws and recount procedures. As required by Minnesota law, I will co-sign the election certificate as soon as it is issued by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican and a potential presidential candidate, has not yet released a statement.

I just asked a top Senate Democratic aide what the expectation is over there for the Minnesota Senate race, and whether Norm Coleman will concede and/or Al Franken will be finally declared the winner now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in Franken's favor.

"Based on everything we have seen so far, we assume this is moving towards closure once and for all," the source said. "Once the Secretary signs the certificate, and sends it to the Secretary of the Senate, we are prepared to swear in Sen.-elect Franken as early as possible next week."

Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) will be holding a press conference at 4 p.m. ET, reacting to today's ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court that Democratic comedian Al Franken is the winner of the 2008 Senate race.

The big question is whether Coleman will concede the race, or instead try to fight on at the U.S. Supreme Court. It's been nearly six months since this Senate seat went vacant, stuck in the limbo of all this litigation. We could know today whether this is truly the end, or if instead this will keep on going.

Apparent Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) will then give his own press conference at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine has released this statement on Al Franken's victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

"On behalf of the Democratic National Committee, I congratulate Al Franken on his election to the United States Senate. Senator-Elect Franken must be seated as soon as possible. The people of Minnesota rightfully elected Al Franken to serve in the Senate and there is far too much work to be done for the state and the nation to drag this process on any longer."

"Today's ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court marks the end of the line for Norm Coleman's legal battle. For too long, Minnesotans have been denied their proper representation in Congress while Norm Coleman pursued his political ambitions. In light of today's decision, Norm Coleman should concede and Governor Pawlenty should sign the election certificate which Al Franken is entitled to, and which he pledged to do upon guidance from the court. Doing so will finally put this saga to an end and give Minnesotans their full voice in the U.S. Senate."

It should be noted that Coleman's legal battle theoretically could keep going, if he were to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and be able to get an injunction against certifying Franken's victory. That scenario doesn't seem too likely, but we'll see how this all plays out.

Speaking of Democratic votes, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who has been hospitalized for weeks, has been released to recuperate at home.

Though it's unclear when exactly he'll be able to return to the Senate to vote, his absence--like Al Franken's--has complicated Democratic efforts to accomplish key goals, including confirming DOJ-nominee Dawn Johnsen.

Progressive group People for the American Way released this statement from their president, Michael B. Keegan:

It's taken quite a while, but Senator Franken's victory is now official. That's good news for Minnesotans and for all of us. Governor Pawlenty has said he would certify the election results, and he should do so immediately.

Senator Franken's victory should finally put to rest GOP threats to filibuster President Obama's agenda. With any luck, Senate Republicans will take this opportunity to stop obstructing the important work that needs to get done for the country and actually start helping to get it done.

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has released this statement from chair Brian Melendez and associate chair Donna Cassutt, on Al Franken's victory today at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

"We offer our heartfelt congratulations once again to Senator-elect Franken, his wife Franni and their family. Throughout this long process, Minnesotans have seen what kind of senator Al Franken will be: determined, patient, thoughtful and ready to work for our state. Now it is time for the senator-elect to be seated so that Minnesota is once again fully represented in the United States Senate.

"The Supreme Court's ruling also proves that Minnesotans can take pride in our election process. The close vote, the long recount and the ensuing election contest may have confounded other states. But Minnesota has shown the nation that our system is meticulous, transparent and fair.

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