It was a downtown sidewalk in winter, not a raucous hotel ballroom in the fall. And instead of a cheering throng of supporters, it was an odd little knot of people, mostly reporters or neighbors and one golden retriever, who gathered Monday to witness what turned out to be Al Franken’s victory statement.


"I want every Minnesotan to hear this,” Franken said. “I work for you now, and I will work hard to earn your confidence.” He said he knew that “this is not an easy day for Norm Coleman and his family, and I know that because Franni and I and the kids have had plenty of time over the past two months to contemplate the possibility that this election would turn out differently.”


Wise observers were saying yesterday that the possibility of a different result still exists – that the final outcome must await the inevitable court challenge. Critics will suggest that Franken’s claim of victory is premature, if "premature” is the word for something that happens two months after Election Day and at the end of a massive, meticulous recount.


Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak sounded an intriguing chord when he was quoted in Monday’s Star Tribune as saying “the only thing” that could head off a legal challenge “would be a call from Norm Coleman saying, ‘I don’t think so.’ And I don’t see that coming.”


Note to Knaak: You just raised the possibility that your boss will indeed make such a call. It would be of more service to Coleman to let him raise it, if he is going to. The best way to preserve his options is for his legal team to speak with one voice that says: We’re going to win this thing. If the former senator decides, as a matter of principle, that he wants to forgo further challenges, then he gets to spin it any way he wants – and that includes being able to say that he came up with the idea, against the vigorous objections of his advisers. He could act the statesman – and be one.