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Minn. Judges Deal Blow to Coleman

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009; Page A04

A three-judge state panel in Minnesota dealt Norm Coleman (R) a serious setback in his bid for reelection to the Senate, ruling yesterday that only 400 absentee ballots in his contest against entertainer Al Franken (D) may be reviewed and possibly counted.

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Franken leads Coleman by 225 votes, and the lead attorney for Coleman said that the number of ballots being recounted would make it a "long shot" for his client to make up the necessary ground.

Ben Ginsberg, Coleman's attorney, referred to the ruling as an "April Fools' Day" judgment and said that the decision "gives us no choice but to appeal that order to the Minnesota Supreme Court."

Marc Elias, an attorney for Franken's campaign, said, "We feel pretty good about where we stand."

The Minnesota Secretary of State's Office will start counting the absentee ballots next Tuesday.

Coleman's campaign had pushed for including many more "wrongly rejected absentee ballots" in the final count, arguing that the standards for inclusion during a statewide recount that saw Coleman go from ahead to behind were entirely inconsistent.

National Republicans have pledged to fight -- and filibuster -- any attempt to seat Franken in Congress before Coleman exhausts his legal options.

-- Chris Cillizza

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