Ask Democrats or Republicans, political scientists or local elections officials. Ask Al Franken or Norm Coleman.

They seem capable, on one issue, of reaching consensus.

“I’m just glad it’s over, for God’s sake,” said Jim Fleming, the chairman of the Nicollet County DFL.

“It’s time to move on,” said Jerry Groebner, chairman of the Blue Earth County Republican Party.

“I’m just really glad it’s finally over, maybe,” said Patty O’Connor, director of elections for Blue Earth County.

The “maybe” was added by O’Connor because she was speaking before Coleman announced that he was conceding last November’s election to Franken.

O’Connor, like Minnesotans and political observers across the country, had seen the election night count, the recount, the court challenge and the appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court stretch on through four seasons. It was hard for people to believe the marathon was actually finished until Coleman officially said there would be no further challenges.

The decision to concede leaves him with a political future, according to Joe Kunkel, political science professor at Minnesota State. Pushing the court challenge into the federal judiciary might have been more than Minnesotans could abide.

“That would have been a really unpopular move, and he didn’t do it,” Kunkel said. “He recognized it was over.”

Kunkel — pointing to Coleman’s extremely high name-recognition, proven ability to raise money and large base of supporters — said the former St. Paul mayor could be the leading Republican contender to replace Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who’s not seeking a third term.

“I wouldn’t count him out,” Kunkel said.

Fleming agreed.

“You can never say never, can never write anybody’s obituary,” he said.

But there’s still that bothersome campaign resume for Coleman: lost a governor’s race to a professional wrestler, won a narrow Senate victory when opponent Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash just before Election Day, lost to a former comedy writer best known for his performance as effeminate self-help guru Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live.

“It’s an issue, man, it’s an issue,” Fleming said. “... On a statewide basis, he’s got issues.”

Franken does, too. He enters the Senate politically weak, having won just 42 percent of the vote and having been tarnished by a vicious campaign advertising war and a race that highlighted some of his most offensive statements, Kunkel said.

The good news for Franken is he has more than five years to improve his standing with voters before facing re-election.

“Basically, he’s a professional wise guy,” Kunkel said. “... Whether he becomes an endearing character or becomes unpopular remains to be.”

Groebner is expecting the latter.

“He can fire up a lot of people to make sure he doesn’t get re-elected,” Groebner said of the potential of a controversial Franken term to motivate Republican activists. “I just hope he keeps rattling off his mouth the way he’s been.”

His most incendiary comments came in his earlier career at SNL and as an author, and Kunkel wonders if Franken has permanently shut down his sense of humor out of caution.

“I guess my final thought is, can Al Franken be funny again or does he have to keep being serious and boring?”

Fleming, who became a Franken supporter after initial skepticism, is optimistic about how he will perform. And he doesn’t believe that Franken’s unusual victory — winning with well less than 50 percent of the vote — will hamper him.

“Pawlenty’s won the same way. It’s hard to look at Pawlenty and say he’s weak,” Fleming said.

And Franken — after the longest wait of any candidate in Minnesota election history — will next week be granted something powerful that normally doesn’t come with 42 percent of the vote.

“He’s the senator,” Fleming said.

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