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Franken Picks Up 87 Votes; Frustration With Coleman Grows

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The news keeps getting worse for Norm Coleman, with a counting of previously-rejected ballots on Tuesday only adding to his deficit and a growing number of Minnesota officials and even national Republicans warning against further legal appeals.

"I think it's time for him to give up this fight," prominent conservative, Ramesh Ponnuru wrote, rather succinctly, on the National Review's The Corner.

The former Senator moved from 225 votes to 312 votes behind Al Franken after a three-judge panel approved 351 ballots that had been erroneously rejected -- spurred by a Coleman lawsuit. As noted by one of the most devout followers of the Minnesota saga, Talking Points Memo's Eric Kleefeld: "The only way for Coleman to overcome this lead would be to win an appeal against the election court's prior rulings in favor of strict standards to let in new ballots, or to somehow win his much more far-fetched proposal to retroactively declare a number of absentee votes illegal and deduct them from the totals based on countywide averages."

This, of course, seems increasingly like a legal Hail Mary. But with key officials in the GOP urging him to draw out the process, Coleman has indicated that he will appeal any declaration of a winner to the state Supreme Court and could even take his case federal, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minnesotans are starting to groan. The state's governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty, told MSNBC on Monday that it could take "a few more months" until the appeals were exhausted and "we get a proper result." But a few weeks prior he was on record with the Pioneer Press acknowledging that: "Any time a state is lacking a member of Congress, it puts you at a disadvantage ... It is frustrating."

The state's lone acting Senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, has also begun to express her disappointment over the vacant seat. "I would love to know how Texas would like that," she said in response to NRSC chair (and Texas Senator) John Cornyn, who said Minnesota could go with one Senator for years.

Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar, meanwhile, has been one of the most vocal critics of Coleman's legal strategy, saying this past week that the former Senator and national GOP
"is playing not just with fire, but with dynamite ... this thing is going to blow up in their face."

Former Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger has said that the party leadership in Washington does not have "Coleman's best interests in mind."

"If Norm had to finance this recount on his own, he never could have gone through it," he said. "Norm couldn't afford to put a nickel into this thing, but John Cornyn could."

Even the very much reserved Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who has played it entirely straight throughout the recount, has begun airing doubts about Coleman's course of action.

"It wouldn't feel very Minnesotan," Ritchie said of a federal appeal, "and I think it's been pretty Minnesotan up until now."

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