COLEMAN’S DWINDLING OPTIONS…. It’s going to be increasingly difficult for Norm Coleman and the Republican Party to justify dragging this out even further.

The Minnesota state Supreme Court has turned down Sen. Norm Coleman’s plea to include 654 rejected absentee ballots in the final vote count in his race against entertainer Al Franken, a major setback for the GOP incumbent who is seeking to make up a 225-vote deficit.

The Court — in an opinion issued this afternoon and signed by Chief Justice Alan Page ( a member of the Purple People Eaters) — said that Coleman’s attempt to include these rejected absentees did not meet the criteria for counting ballots laid out in a previous ruling, specifically that both sides had to agree for any additional ballots to be counted.

“Because the parties and the respective counties have not agreed as to any of these additional ballots, the merits of this dispute (and any other disputes with respect to absentee ballots) are the proper subject of an election contest,” wrote Page.

And with that, Franken should be declared the winner in about an hour.

Lead Franken attorney Marc Elias released a statement in response to the court ruling, “Today, the Supreme Court once again affirmed the validity of the rules under which this recount was conducted. Minnesotans have waited a long time for a winner to be declared in this race, and today, with the last attempt to halt the counting process now having failed, Al Franken will be declared the winner.”

On a related note, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said this morning that winning more votes and being declared the winner does not give Franken “a legal right” to claim victory.

Keep in mind, the right is already gearing up for a prolonged fight, as evidenced by a wildly misleading editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, which is based largely on the notion that its readers don’t know that the Minnesota canvassing board is bipartisan, and has made a series of decisions unanimously.

Let’s not also forget, it was just two months ago that Coleman announced that he would concede if he were losing. As he saw it, the day after the election, it was “important” for the “healing process” that voters not be put through a prolonged fight.

Funny, he seems to have changed his mind.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.