Joe Friedberg, Norm Coleman's lead attorney in his lengthy U.S. Senate recount trial against Al Franken, expects Coleman eventually will win -- just not this round.

That's according to comments Friedberg made this week on a Twin Cities radio show.

Friedberg, a successful defense attorney with a reputation for telling it like it is, told host Ron Rosenbaum on KFAN (1130-AM) Wednesday that the three judges hearing the trial probably will rule that Franken received more votes than Coleman.

But he said the Coleman case was built on a constitutional argument that's better-suited for the likes of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Reached Friday, Friedberg declined to expand on his radio remarks. "When the constitutional issues are litigated, I really do believe we're going to win," he said.

The campaign later released a statement from Friedberg saying that he was "confident that if the court proceeds with wisdom and with decisions based on the facts and on the law that we will succeed in our case."

On KFAN, Friedberg said that the Coleman team had tried the case "with the appeal record in mind, and that's where we're going, and it's going to be a very quick appeal and then I'll know whether or not it worked."

"Well, when you say a quick appeal," Rosenbaum asked, "are you confident that you're going to lose the case in front of the three-judge panel? By losing the case, I mean Norm ends up with less votes."

"I think that's probably correct, that Franken will still be ahead and probably by a bit more," Friedberg replied.

"But our whole argument was a constitutional argument ... So we will see whether we were right or not."

Friedberg suggested that the basis for appeal would be the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. In his closing argument last week, he argued that every ballot should be judged by a common standard of substantial compliance with state law.

Coleman expects that standard would let in substantially more votes to be counted and increase his chances of overcoming Franken's 225-vote recount lead.

Equal protection was the foundation of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2000 decision in Bush vs. Gore, in which the court said a uniform standard for counting ballots was required but it was too late to adopt one and ruled in favor of Texas Gov. George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore.

"I just think it was bad for the country to have the court basically decide Gore v. Bush," Rosenbaum said.

"Well, frankly," Friedberg cracked, "the more input lawyers can have, the better I like it. It's called the full employment act for lawyers."

He said that no one will ever know for sure who got the most votes in the 2008 Senate race.

"Every election we ever have, there are mistakes?" Rosenbaum said.

"That's correct, and until you have an election this close, those kinds of things don't matter," Friedberg said.

He added that it could be a while before a winner is declared.

Franken spokespeople declined to comment.

Kevin Duchschere • 651-292-0164