It won’t be long now until the Al Franken Decade begins in earnest.

Franken captured 198 of the ballots, while Coleman took 111. The ballots added 87 votes to Franken’s recount lead, enlarging his margin over Coleman to 312.

The result makes it even more likely that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, Franken will prevail in the election lawsuit that Coleman filed in January to contest the Democrat’s 225-vote recount lead. The three-judge panel presiding over the case has not said when it will issue a final decision.

Coleman will appeal the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court, his lawyer Ben Ginsberg said after today’s proceedings. One of the grounds for the appeal will be unequal treatment of the ballots, Ginsberg said.

Ramesh at the Corner says it’s time for Coleman to throw in the towel. Is it? Three months ago I said he might as well claw all the way to the bitter end, but we’re near the bitter end now and at some point the costs of clawing will exceed the benefits. From what I can tell of this byzantine case, his last legal challenge in state court is essentially an equal protection argument modeled on Bush v. Gore. If that fails then he has to decide whether to start over in federal court, as the Senate GOP leadership wants him to do. I’m pessimistic:

[Legal experts] want to see a final decision from those same trial court judges on Coleman’s claim that the state’s absentee ballot counting process, which differed county-to-county, violated his constitutional right to equal protection — even though he, Franken and their lawyers agreed to standards used in the recount…

However, no matter how remote his chances for success, a Coleman request for high court review could serve to delay for months the seating of a second Minnesota senator, Hasen says.

Unless it’s an emergency, the court does not consider petitions during its summer break, from the end of June to the beginning of October. GOP Senate leaders have threatened to block any attempt to seat Franken if he’s declared the winner by state courts, pending any ongoing appeal by Coleman.

If this drags on without any realistic chance of victory, the Democrats get red meat for their narrative of the GOP as an obstructionist “party of no” and the likelihood of a months-long reprisal court challenge from the left (in Tedisco’s House race, maybe?) will rise. There are consequences potentially for Coleman, too: If and when Pawlenty moves on bigger things, he might want to run for governor, in which case a gracious concession even at this late date could polish his image.

On the other hand, we’re talking about Al Franken here. Time to quit or not?