At Least for Now, Franken Pulls Ahead

ABC News’ Rick Klein and Teddy Davis Report: Despite trailing by a narrow but consistent margin since Election Day, Democrat Al Franken has pulled ahead of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., in the seemingly never-ending recount in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Could Franken actually pull this off?

In short, yes -- but the current unofficial margin of 250 votes is almost certain to drop as the counting and re-counting -- and the raft of legal challenges -- go on, and on. It’s very possible that the last remaining race from the 2008 elections won’t be settled until 2009.

This from Coleman spokesman Mark Drake: "While varying headlines and a flurry of different numbers will continue, we encourage everyone to just hang on until the process is finished. When it is finished, Norm Coleman will still lead, and we believe, be re-elected to the United States Senate.”

Franken's lead is expected to increase throughout the day Friday, because the Canvassing Board is reviewing Coleman’s challenges. Most challenges fail, and when that happens, the other candidate is awarded the vote in the official tally.

Monday is a big day in front of the Canvassing Board, with two items on the agenda. This is technical stuff, but here goes:

1. The campaigns are withdrawing challenges to roughly 4,000 previously contested ballots. When a campaign withdraws its challenge, it allows the local official’s original determination to be recorded, benefiting the opponent of the candidate withdrawing the challenge. This step will benefit Coleman, since the majority of these withdrawn challenges were withdrawn by Franken.

2. The Minnesota Canvassing Board will review additional challenges from Coleman and Franken that were brought late this week. More of these challenges were brought by Coleman (roughly 200) than by Franken (roughly 50). This step of the process will likely net some votes for Franken, since most challenges fail.

Bottom line: Coleman is expected to gain ground on Monday -- a point the Franken campaign concedes.

The big question –- which we will not know until Monday -– is whether Coleman will gain enough to regain the lead.

With Congress set to convene in new session Jan. 6, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., said his staff was researching the possibility of a temporary appointment.

Pawlenty said, however, that it was unlikely he would do so because he expected the recount would be resolved by then.

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