We've been there for every step of the closely contested Al Franken-Norm Coleman race for the Minnesota Senate, like that time when a Coleman mailer called Al a child-molester (amazing!), Norm's lawsuit against the Franken campaign for slander, and now, the Franken campaign's desire to examine rejected absentee ballots. Although there was reason for optimism about Franken's chances to defeat the barftastic Coleman in the past, does that hold after the first hand count didn't help the former SNL regular?The reason for Franken's desperation — the hand recount of votes this week still left him down 204 votes out of about 2.9 million cast. With the recount set to begin on Tuesday, is Franken already doomed to become Secretary of Sketch Parody in an Obama administration, or a United States Senator?

Recent developments hold the race in the balance. Franken's desire to examine rejected absentee ballots is either a desperation move or a worthwhile move at this stage. If he can get Media Matters to stop attacking the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and use money from Hillary's , he'll have the ability to keep this going indefinitely, if necessary. But that kind of intervention might not even be needed. Washington election-law lawyer Scott Rafferty is more positive about Franken's chances of prevailing in this recount scenario, and says the rejected absentee ballots challenge is credible:

Minnesota has almost no provisional ballots, because voters can register or reregister on Election Day. However, absentee ballots are subject to a signature match before they are removed from the security envelope. Franken's attorneys are disputing the decision of the canvassing board in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, to exclude 461 absentees, largely due to apparent signature mismatches. If some of these voters authenticate their signatures, the state canvassing board will almost certainly count them. The party ID of these voters is known, so it is highly likely that the great majority voted for Franken. For all these reasons, Coleman faces long odds in holding on to his lead, which had shrunk to 206 by last Friday evening. The Coleman campaign is acutely aware of its predicament and is desperately looking for new ways to cloud the election result. Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks vaguely about "strange things happening in the context of this recount."

Since Nate Silver agrees, Norm Coleman better hire some mo' better lawyers.