If the state Supreme Court doesn't declare Norm Coleman the winner of Minnesota's vacant U.S. Senate seat, he'll take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the head of the national Republican Party.
If the court, which hears arguments in the case on June 1, rules in favor of Al Franken, "then it's going to the federal courts," said Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Asked over the weekend if Coleman should concede to Franken if the Democrat is declared the winner, Steele replied, "no, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it's going to get bumped to the next level. This does not end until there's a final ruling that speaks to whether or not those votes that have not been counted should be counted. And Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that."
Although many of Coleman's powerful GOP allies in the Senate have strongly hinted that his fight would go on in the federal courts, Steele's comments are the strongest suggestion to date that such a fight is considered inevitable.
For his part, Coleman hasn't said whether he would pursue his effort into the federal courts. He also hasn't ruled out such a move.
Meanwhile, Franken was expected to file his reply today to the brief Coleman submitted to the state Supreme Court in the latest chapter of the race.
Last month, three judges who heard a trial that followed the Senate recount ruled that Franken had won by 312 votes. Coleman was ahead by 215 votes when the recount began in November, and Franken was up by 225 when the recount results were certified in early January.
Coleman has appealed last month's ruling, arguing that the three-judge panel applied a stricter standard for counting thousands of disputed absentee ballots than was used on Election Day.
The Coleman camp says the best remedy would be to count additional rejected absentee ballots -- at least 4,900 -- similar to ones that were included by local officials on Election Day.
Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184