WASHINGTON (CNN) – As Minnesota begins to re-count the nearly three million ballots cast in the state’s tightly-contested Senate battle, the two candidates in the race - Democrat Al Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman - were on Capitol Hill meeting with Senate leaders.
Franken met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for about 20 minutes on Wednesday morning in Reid’s office on the second floor of the Capitol building. After the meeting, he told reporters he had briefed the Majority Leader on the mechanics of the recount and said he is "cautiously optimistic" he will win.
"We believe that if they're all counted, we think that we’ll prevail given the sort of history of all this,” Franken said of the recount.
The former comedy writer said he had scheduled meetings at the DSCC, where he will meet with experts who know about setting up transition offices and organizational things along those lines. He said it would "be irresponsible not to start thinking about that stuff before in case we do win."
Franken also said his campaign will continue fundraising while the ballots are being counted to pay for field organization and potential legal costs.
"We anticipate that there will be more litigation," Franken said. Lawsuits have been filed by both campaigns.
Franken's trip to Washington, however, was largely symbolic. A congressional aide told CNN the underlying purpose of the Reid meeting was to blunt Coleman’s public posture that he has won re-election and to demonstrate that Franken will be ready to immediately assume office should he win.
Another aide said the reason for Franken’s optimism is that in Minnesota recounts are done by hand and election officials are supposed to determine the intention of each voter. There is a school of thought that elderly voters, poor voters, and others who might favor Democrats are more prone to having mistakenly marked their ballots - for example, circling a name instead of connecting the arrows.
Coleman, meanwhile, visited the office of his Republican colleague Ted Stevens, where he met with the embattled senator for about 10 minutes. Stevens was defeated in his re-election bid Tuesday night after the outstanding ballots in the Alaska senate race were counted.
Coleman did not answer questions after leaving Stevens' office.