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Neither side is giving an inch in Minnesota's protracted Senate election fight, and the tiny margin used to secure the newly passed economic stimulus package is a vivid reminder of why.


Supporters of both Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman see a winner influencing the balance of power in the Senate, even as the Democrats already firmly hold the chamber.

"The 59th vote in the Senate is very valuable, and that's obvious now," said Kathryn Pearson, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. "It's valuable for Democrats to add a vote, and it would be very valuable to Republicans to deny that vote."

For Democrats, the absence of Franken's vote has already made passing legislation more of a challenge. The $787 billion stimulus bill squeezed through the Senate late Friday night on the vote of Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who was flown back to Washington on a government plane from his home state, where he was mourning the death of his mother. Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is suffering from a brain tumor, could not attend the vote.


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