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Al Franken left showbiz to prove himself a serious policy wonk as well as a devoted family man; Sarah Palin transformed herself and her family into a reality television show. Their long, odd trips reflect the journeys of their respective parties.

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Al Franken won't officially be a U.S. senator until next week, but he's set to make a big impact, and not just because he gives his party that 60th seat. Senate Democrats have reserved four committee spots for Franken, two of which will make him a key participant in health care reform and the confirmation of President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

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After five months of recounting and legal wrangling in Minnesota's endless Senate battle, Al Franken has more votes than he started with and Norm Coleman still can't accept that he's out of a job. A state court just sided with Franken, but Coleman has said he will continue to appeal.

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The Coleman-Franken battle wasn't the only drama going down Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Roland Burris, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick for Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat, was not part of the swearing-in ceremony for new members of Congress, but he just might make it after all.

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There were just a few action items -- emphasis on action -- for the 111th Congress to contend with on the broad domestic and global scale as veteran members reconvened and new recruits made it official on Tuesday. Get to work, people.

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After recounting 2.4 million ballots cast in the state's U.S. Senate election, Minnesota officials are ready to name Al Franken the winner by a mere 225 votes. Franken's rival, Sen. Norm Coleman, will likely fight the decision in the state Supreme Court. His campaign manager, meanwhile, is calling for a do-over. Updates after the jump.

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Minnesotans have been parodied for their politeness, but the state's Senate race seems to get nastier and nastier. With Al Franken taking a sliver of a lead by most estimates, the bitter recount battle halted Monday as both sides made a scene in Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office.

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BradBlog has the latest from the endless recount battle in Minnesota, where Al Franken currently is trailing by only two votes. Results are day-to-day, but the Star-Tribune is predicting Franken will win out by fewer than 100 votes.

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In case you haven't been following Al Franken's fortunes in Minnesota's ongoing recount, here's a brief recap: He was down, but not by much, then down by less and, a little later, even less, then he claimed to be up, but now it looks like he's down again, but not by much. Confused? You're not alone.

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