Allegations of fraud in the 2008 Senate race between Al Franken (D) and Norm Coleman (R) are “credible,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) said Wednesday.

Pawlenty seemed to back allegations leveled by a conservative group in Minnesota that a sizable number of convicted felons, who were ineligible to vote, cast ballots in the extremely close Senate election, possibly tipping the race to Franken, who was sworn in last year as senator.

“There’s a serious allegation to that effect and if it turns out to be true, it’s quite possible,” Pawlenty said during an appearance on Fox News when asked if felons might have handed Franken victory. 

“There’s a group out here in Minnesota that’s investigated that,” added the two-term governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate. “They seem to have found credible evidence that many felons who are not supposed to be voting actually voted in the Franken-Coleman election.”

The contest between Franken and Coleman, the incumbent senator, dragged on for months during hand recounts and in court contests and litigation before Franken was certified as winner by 312 votes. 

Marc Elias, who handled Franken’s legal team throughout the recount process, emphasized that both Coleman and Franken’s attorneys brought forth all evidence in a process that was fully litigated before Franken was declared victor.

“Sen. Coleman was represented by some of the best lawyers there are in the country,” Elias said Wednesday. “At the end of that process, the lead lawyer for Sen. Coleman told the state Supreme Court that there was no evidence of persistent fraud in the election.”

“It’s a process that I think both Sen. Coleman and the Franken side thought worked well,” Elias added.

Pawlenty said he couldn’t say for sure whether the felons tipped the election, but suggested it was possible if the fraud allegations were true.

“I suspect they favored Al Franken; I don’t know that,” he said. “But if that turns out to be true, they may have flipped the election in a very close election — there were only a few hundred votes difference, as you know.”

The aspersions toward Franken’s victory could be politically motivated for Pawlenty, a possible Republican candidate for president who will need to appeal to conservatives actively participating in the GOP’s primaries. Franken is a figure who’s generally reviled by many of those primary voters. 

The Minnesota governor, however, did sign Franken’s election certificate after the state’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Coleman, who dropped all appeals after that defeat.