If anyone expected Al Franken to acknowledge political reality and withdraw from the race for the US Senate, they must have him confused with some other tax cheat. Instead of allowing the Minnesota DFL Party, the state’s Democratic affiliate, to find a candidate with a shot at beating incumbent Norm Coleman this fall, Franken instead announced that he has hired a new campaign manager, one with experience at unseating incumbents. But does she have experience with tax audits?

U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken has hired a new campaign manager with experience in helping a Democratic challenger unseat a Republican incumbent.

Stephanie Schriock is a Mankato native who got her start working for DFLers Mary Rieder in 1996 and former Congressman Bill Luther in 1998.

In 2006, she was campaign manager for Montana Democrat Jon Tester, who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns.

This comes as a rare piece of good news for the national Republican Party. Coleman looked vulnerable this year even against Franken, until a series of revelations about tax fraud involving Franken hit the headlines. Franken didn’t pay taxes in 17 states, ducked a New York demand to cover his employees for workers comp, and had his corporation decertified by California for failing to meet its responsibilities in filing reports and taxes. Michael Brodkorb at Minnesota Democrats Exposed discovered almost all of the evidence for these stories and helped break them into the national spotlight.

Since then, Franken has tried to downplay his tax violations, claiming ignorance of tax law. Even if one accepted that explanation, incompetence on such a grand scale doesn’t exactly cast Franken in the best light as a lawmaker. Franken has agreed to pay the back taxes owed in these states in order to avoid criminal prosecution, but has shifted blame to his accountant — and demanded that the accountant keep quiet and refrain from defending himself in public. That suggests that the incompetence explanation doesn’t amount to the whole story, and that Franken would like to keep the truth from the public.

The DFL has quietly looked for another candidate to endorse before its convention next month, hoping Franken would withdraw, but has come up empty thus far. Their only alternative at this time is Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, an extremist professor at the University of St. Thomas who makes pretty much everyone to the right of William Ayers look like a Reaganite, including Franken. Either way, the result will be a rare walkover defense for a Republican in a battleground state in 2008.

Or … well, it could be worse:

The campaign slogan? Jesse: Because Minnesotans have short memories.