That’s Senator Stuart Smalley to you.

“On Tuesday, I will stand before you with that work completed. Al Franken will have a lead of between 35 and 50 votes. And, at some point not too long after that, Al Franken will stand before you as the senator-elect from Minnesota,” Elias said at a press conference Saturday.

The state’s Canvassing Board is expected to finish counting all the disputed ballots in the Senate race on Tuesday, adding the thousands of challenges that were withdrawn by both campaigns to the tally. Currently Franken leads by 251 votes, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s unofficial count…

Coleman campaign spokesman Mark Drake issued the following response: “This is just more bluster and hot air from a campaign that has been trailing for two years. While we can understand their need to latch onto their temporary lead, the reality is there’s a long way to go in this process. We have no doubt that once this recount is fully completed, Senator Coleman will be in the lead and will be reelected to the Senate.”

How can Franken predict victory when there are still 5,000 withdrawn challenges to count? Because: (a) the Star-Tribune’s readers have been looking at and voting on those challenges for weeks and their polling puts him 40 votes ahead when all’s said and done; and (b) per Nate Silver’s latest analysis, Team Franken’s signaled in the past that it knows there aren’t enough Coleman votes in its own withdrawn challenges to put Coleman over the top. (If that sounds confusing, read Silver and it’ll make sense.) As for those 1,600 rejected absentee ballots, Silver again:

The problem for the Coleman campaign is that counting more absentee ballots will probably benefit Franken. Democrats made a push nationwide for early and absentee voting, and at least one pre-election survey also had Franken doing better among absentee voters. The behavior of the respective campaigns, of course [i.e. the fact that Franken fought to have the ballots counted], has been perhaps the strongest signal that such votes are likely to help Franken.

But now that he’s (probably) no longer ahead, Coleman has conflicting objectives on the absentee ballot front. On the one hand, he might want to gamble and count as many of them as he can — he has little to lose, and has to pick up votes somehow. But on the other hand, he knows it’s more likely than not that a plurality of such votes will be for Franken. The dilemma is a bit like that facing the gambler who, having lost his shirt at blackjack, puts his last few chips on ’00’ on the roulette wheel hoping to get even.

I had assumed that Franken fought to have the absentees included because he was trailing at the time and was willing to take any possible route to more votes that he could get, but maybe I’m wrong. In any case, per the state supreme court ruling, the standards for judging the absentee ballots have to be mutually agreed upon by the two camps, which means that to some extent whoever leads when the withdrawn challenges are counted on Monday controls his own destiny. And that’s likely to be weird Al. Exit question: When will Coleman concede? I’m hoping for 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, just to end the year on an appropriately dismal note.