THE LATEST: A poll of Minnesota voters taken last week shows Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman opening up a sizable lead on DFLer Al Franken, considered the party's front runner to challenge Coleman since attorney Mike Ciresi dropped out of the race.

The poll, conducted Wednesday by SurveyUSA, found that in a Coleman-Franken match, 51 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Coleman and 41 percent would back Franken. Seven percent said they were undecided.

MARGIN OF ERROR: The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. SurveyUSA conducted the poll for KSTP-TV, interviewing 644 registered Minnesota voters.

The poll was taken shortly after Ciresi announced his departure from the race, and a week after it was reported that Franken was facing a $25,000 fine from New York state for failing to cover his corporate employees for workers' compensation for three years.

Coleman racked up wider margins when paired against DFL Senate candidates Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Darryl Stanton. Against Nelson-Pallmeyer, Coleman's lead was 57 percent to 28 percent. Against Stanton, his advantage was 57 percent to 27 percent.

A SurveyUSA poll last month showed a statistical tie between Coleman and Franken, with Coleman leading by a single percentage point, 47 to 46 percent.

Dick Franson is also seeking the DFL nomination.