More than the 60th Democratic voteby David Durenberger
Franken becomes part of a system he loved to satirize, and Coleman gets to decide whether it's too early for a full-time public servant to retire to private life.
For each of them -- and for most other Minnesotans -- the future is likely to be a lot better than the election campaign and recount they've just finished.
The U.S. Senate is a much more collegial body than its politics would lead you to believe. It's a body designed to reflect the nation's best interests, and to bring out the best in the few who are given an opportunity to serve there.
Franken starts with assignments to two committees good for liberals, such as he is presumed to be -- the Judiciary Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Although his arrival as the 100th senator has been eagerly awaited, expectations for him have not been all that high. Franken has little or no experience in the business of the Senate or the environment in which that business gets done.
While he may draw cheers on the Iron Range, Franken's election victory does not translate into automatic popularity. In Washington he's been seen not so much as Minnesota's senator as the 60th Democratic vote.
But Franken is a Minnesota senator. His tenure will be shaped by the wishes of his constituents, and by President Obama and Sen. Amy Klobuchar -- who have done the work of representing the interests of Minnesotans over the past six months.
Norm Coleman is an experienced public servant who has been most comfortable in his independent role as mayor of St. Paul, where he served as both a Democrat and a Republican.
He has known for years that he would be a good governor. In 1998 he ran ahead of Skip Humphrey and lost to Jesse Ventura in an election that mainly showed how unhappy Minnesota was (and still is) with left- and right-wing partisans.
Many people today consider Coleman and former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad their most likely choices as Republican candidates for governor. That shows us how important both experience and independent judgment are in the leaders Minnesotans seek.
Tim Pawlenty was wise not to seek a third term as governor. Those who know him believe his potential is yet to be realized. He needs to put some time and space between his record as governor and his own political future.
Pawlenty's legacy so far is shaped more by the dictates of ideological Republican politics than by the independent streak of those he serves in the North Star state.
If Pawlenty wants to be the standard-bearer of the Republican future, he will have to free himself from the right-wing partisans of his party and come up with something more inspiring than "Sam's Club" politics. Leave that one to Sarah Palin.
David Durenberger, former Republican U.S. senator from Minnesota, is senior health policy fellow, chair of the National Institute of Health Policy and a teacher at the University of St. Thomas.