Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run in Minnesota?

Roll Call's Nicole Duran seems to think so:

Comedian Al Franken is waiting until next year to decide if he will run for Senate, but political watchers in Minnesota say the Gopher State native is looking more and more like a politician.

Franken moved his family and radio show back to Garrison Keillor's land of Lake Wobegon last year as a prelude to possibly challenging first-term Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) in 2008. Speculation arose Friday that Franken might ditch his show on the ailing Air America network. He did not confirm his rumored departure - but such a move certainly would free up time for a Senate bid.


Regardless of what happens to "The Al Franken Show," rarely has there been a major event recently for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota, without Franken making an appearance.


Franken also launched a political action committee, Midwest Values, in 2005. The PAC distributed more than $240,000 to candidates and other committees as of Oct. 18. That, combined with his trips through the political circuit and stint as an emcee for fundraisers, has helped endear him to the party faithful.

I tend to be less pessimistic about Franken's chances than many. As Duran notes, Franken would come into the race with significant political capital from the money he raised for candidates in Minnesota and around the country and would not likely have difficulty matching Coleman dollar for dollar. Franken would come in with relatively high name recognition, which carries positives and negatives though might not be as detrimental as some politics watchers think. True, Franken does have a long record from which opposition researchers could pull potentially damaging quotes. Still, alternative weekly publisher John Yarmuth did, too, but that did not stop him from defeating incumbent GOP Rep. Ann Northup in Kentucky this fall.

And Coleman is more defeatable than some would have you believe. Coleman does have a fairly sizeable warchest ($1.8 million as of September 30). But there are a number of factors that could lead for this race to be competitive almost regardless of which Democrat takes the DFL nomination.

Republicans have won statewide elections in Minnesota in recent years, most notably Tim Pawlenty narrowly winning gubernatorial elections this fall and four years ago and Coleman himself winning in an unorthodox campaign in 2002. But there are a number of trends that bode poorly for Republicans in the state even as the party plans to hold its nominating convention in the state in 2008. Democrat Amy Klobuchar walked to an easy victory in this year's senatorial contest against Rep. Mark Kennedy, who was thought of as the best potential candidate for the Republican Party, and Democrat Tim Walz defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht in a district that has a Republican lean, according to the Cook Political Report.

Looking at race-specific numbers, Coleman's rather unimpressive approval rating should be a cause of concern for Republicans as well. According to SurveyUSA polling, Coleman falls among the least popular fifth of United States Senators with an approval rating of just 48 percent and a disapproval rating of 43 percent. What's more, despite his posturing to the middle Coleman's conservatism ranks him among Senators from Idaho, Kansas and South Carolina (according to National Journal) -- states significantly to the right of Minnesota.

So even if Franken does not jump into this race in the end -- and in many ways I hope he does -- Democrats should have a good opportunity to make a go of it in Minnesota in 2008. According to Duran, Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum has decided to forgo a run at the Senate (as she did this cycle, to the consternation of some), but other Dems looking at the race include Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, "St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (no relation to the Senator); outgoing state Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson; state Sen. Becky Lourey; and attorney Mike Ciresi." With a plethora of credible candidates and a political enviroment that should be hospitable for the Dems, Minnesota should be among the top targets of Democrats trying to extend their majority in the United States Senate in 2008.

Tags: Al Franken, Minnesota, MN-Sen, Senate 2008 (all tags)



I'm very pessimistic for you

If Frankin runs, he needs to run to win a landslide or else I can't see the math.

by Bob Brigham 2006-12-11 10:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

I hope Franken runs. His tenure at Air America has made him very knowledgeable of today's political climate. And no one wants to run against a comedian. Even if Al loses, he'll wipe the floor with Norm during the race. In a sound bite world, Al will have a great advantage against a dull rubber stamp.

by Benstrader 2006-12-11 10:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

I like Franken, I just hope that if he runs he does it balls to the wall. We don't need a celebrity comedian running a half-ass campaign in a pick-up state.

But if it came down to a radio primary, how could Garrison not win?

by Bob Brigham 2006-12-11 10:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

he'll go btw, Norm is one of his favorite targets, and I think it's his personal mission to beat him. Norm gave him tons of ammo too.

by zappatero 2006-12-12 04:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

Paul Wellstone was one of Franken's heroes; that's why he absolutely despises Coleman, who now sits in the late senator's seat.

by PsiFighter37 2006-12-12 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

I [heart] Al Franken and would like to see him run.    But, while Franken is witty and articulate on the air and in person-to-person contact, he needs serious help with his oratory skills.

In case anyone has forgotten those 2004 AA broadcasts, Franken had a "stump speech" that he'd pull out at Kerry/Edwards rallies.  When it came time for Franken to get fired up, he sounded like a cross between a vintage fire engine, and Wallace Shawn with a bee in his pants.  It was so grating I had to turn off my radio.

Al.  I love you.  Get a voice coach.

by spatne 2006-12-11 10:31PM | 0 recs
by Adam B 2006-12-12 04:41AM | 0 recs
Sen 08: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run in MN?

Why so pessimistic? If Franken runs he wins.

by bobbyk 2006-12-12 02:20AM | 0 recs
what about a suburban backlash

anyone thought of that.  There is a strong history of backlashes in MN.  We saw that in 2002 after the Wellstone funeral speech.  If people perceive they are being manipulated or toyed with, they will vote against the DFL candidate en masse.  Frankin is a high risk candidate, with few upside benefits to his candidacy other than name recognition.  People will love him, or hate him with a passion.

by pjv 2006-12-12 10:08AM | 0 recs
Politics and Television

Politics and entertainment are to America, what consulting firms and accounting firms all-in-one, were to corporate america before sarbanes-oxley.

For me, the question isn't whether he will run or not but whether or not the only place where we can get semi-objective talk radio - Air America - will even stay on the dial.

Right now Air America has so much dead air they might as well call it cemetery 105. "the graveyard"

Al Franken has contributed alot to that state of being for Air America. Why is it, that I simply don't care if he tries to contribute as much to the democratic party

by heyAnita 2006-12-12 03:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Politics and Television

I can see why you might say that, though I disagree.

IMO, Franken and Rachel Maddow are quite good. And what I've heard of Bobby Kennedy Jr is excellent, though he's only got an hour a week, I think.

Air America needs to clean up their lineup. Dumping Jerry Springer (who just doesn't do good radio) was a start, but Sam Seder doesn't seem any better.

I can't help but think that AA is failing because it's being run poorly, not because it's a bad business model.

by KB 2006-12-12 03:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run
Coleman is your  standard issue social conservative and not one of statesman type senators.
However, Franken is seen as a comedian and therefore , could have trouble with people taking him seriously.
It also seems Minn. is moving to the right and that is a problem for Franken as well.
There is still a way off and Minn flirtation with conservatism may be a passing fancy but, it may not be done with it yet.
Franken is also seen as the face of Air America and with all it's management problems it will be seen as Franken's fault.  And that he is poor in managing.  that could pose real problems for him.
by vwcat 2006-12-12 03:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

WTF? Minnesota is moving to the right? As evidenced by what, Klobuchar's victory over Mark Kennedy? By the DFL taking over the Legislature? Minnesota is a very blue state...they flirted with the Republicans for a bit, but realized that wasn't working out. The only reason Pawlenty got re-elected was that people didn't like A.G. Hatch personally, but a decent Dem would have won that race easily.

Franken can generate the kind of grassroots and netroots support that most candidates could only dream of. And Coleman is seriously unpopular in Minnesota, as many people there don't appreciate Bush cheerleaders. That election will be as big a cakewalk as was Casey over Santorum in PA this past November.

by mihan 2006-12-12 06:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

Norm Coleman is less popular than Pawlenty, and the only reason Pawlenty squeaked out a less-than-1% win over Hatch is that Hatch was a rotten candidate.  

Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann are the GOP's only real victories from last month.  They lost the House, which two years ago they controlled by a huge margin, and the Democrats increased their control of the Senate.  And we knocked off Gil Gutknecht with Tim Walz.

by Phoenix Woman 2006-12-12 08:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

I don't see any mention of it on MN blogs which seems odd.

by Alice Marshall 2006-12-12 04:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008:

Coleman is very vulnerable- but Franken? Is this all we got overthere? Look I know he means well and all that- but once typecast, always typecast-the guy is a comedian for heaven's sake. Please- let's all rethink this one.

by RAULC 2006-12-12 04:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

I live in MN and just cannot see Franken winning against Coleman.  Coleman is only a one-term Senator and thus could be vulnerable against an experienced candidate.  But against Franken, he could play up his limited incumbency for all it's worth.  Both Rybak and Lourey would both be better candidates.

More of my thoughts here: 27/70037

by Stahlsworth 2006-12-12 04:38AM | 0 recs
Not sure why the pessimism

I'm not from MN, so I don't claim any specialized knowledge, but from what I can tell MN is much like WI -- Midwestern populist, but with a large, liberal metropolitan area, and a large number of highly educated people and therefore a significant progressive streak (though obviously not overwhelmingly progressive).

Vwcat says that MN is trending conservative, but I don't really see that -- not only did the state go for Gore and Kerry, but Klobuchar just crushed the highly-touted Mark Kennedy ("Greatest. Candidate. Ever."). And Coleman is a totally undistinguished, rubber-stamp senator for a grossly failed administration. What's the guy got to run on?

And as for comedian Franken not being taken seriously -- this is the state that put Jesse "The Body" Ventura in the governor's mansion! Come on, people!  Granted Ventura's tenure as Gov didn't turn out all that well, but my point is that Minnesotans are obviously not averse to mavericks and entertainers.

I will certainly defer to local expertise, but could those who are pessimistic about Franken's chances (and there seem to be plenty) please give us some specific reasons for your pessimism?

by scottso 2006-12-12 05:10AM | 0 recs
Ventura and Franken

The thing about Ventura is that he brought non-voters into the voting booths.  1998 -- a midterm year -- saw a voter turnout in Minnesota of 60%, by far the best in the nation that year.  That, a good campaign by Bill Hillsman (who somehow brought out the best in Jesse while keeping his worst impulse in check until after he was in office), and the fact that it was a three-way race, put Jesse over the top.

While I like Franken a lot, the demographic for which he has the most appeal is one that already votes.  He's not going to get Joe and Jane Lunchbox into the voting booths on his behalf.  

by Phoenix Woman 2006-12-12 09:06AM | 0 recs

How dare you. Minnesota is like Wisconsin!  Somebody get a rope.

Just so you know, MN is nothing like those Wisconsin cheese heads.  MN also has a very different culture.  To give you an example, Western Wisconsin is where you go "huntin", it is very rural, and somewhat conservative, eastern Wisconsin is Milwaukee (pronounced Mwaukee, Mah-wah-kee by ignorant Wisconsites) and the areas leading into Chicago, and in Central Wisconsin is Madison, the liberal oasis.  They are much more on the edge politically for the Democratic party.  We also don't drink Brandy old Fashioneds.  They have an east west axis that is anchored by Chicago on the one side and Minneapolis on the other.  They are landlocked for the most part.  They have something of an interior USA orientation, that leans towards the rust belt.

In MN we are situated very differently.  The Twin Cities has a core metro in Minneapolis/St. Paul that give the DFL (Democratic Farmer Labor Party) huge margins, a moderate inner ring suburbs that is trending DFL somewhat, and a GOP outer ring.  In Minnesota, elections are decided by who controls the suburbs.  In the NE corner of the state bordering lake Superior is the Iron Range, that also votes strongly for the DFL, it is an area renown for its labor history.  To the Souteast is the corner anchored by Rochester and south central anchored by Mankato, and surrounding small towns, that has recently become a battleground on the Rochester side, home to the Mayo Clinic and an IBM plant, and is no longer a Republican stronghold with Tim Walz getting elected there.  This gives Minnesota something of a North South axis.  We have a very different political tradition as well, with a past based much more strongly on unions activism and populist uprisings.

Minnesota also has the Mississippi River, which reinforces that axis, and has the last navigable point along the river, ending in Minneapolis, north of there is the "great white north", where only the strong/stubborn survive.  We also border the ends of the Western Prairie which are in the Dakotas, people start wearing Cowboy hats West of here.  Real Minnesotans don't wear cowboy hats. Minnesotans also avoid direct conflict, preferring a passive aggressive approach to conflict, "are you sure that is a good idea" rather than "don't do that", being an example.

Our dialect and culture is also distinctive, with Scandanavian and German influences, quite unlike other areas of the USA.  The king of Norway visits here for a reason, in order to visit his subjects.  We eat "hot dish" and lutefisk.  In Wisconsin they eat casserole.  To give you an idea of how our cultures vary, in Wisconsin, fireworks are legal, in MN it is illegal.  I mean duh, what could be more clear than that!  Packers vs. Vikings, duh.  I have a haughty disdain for those Cheese heads.  Brett Favre is a big baby!  Packers suck!  The only good thing that ever came from Wisconsin was the brat, and that gets crapped out in short order after being eaten.  We also tend to be wealthier, more hard working, smarter, and all around better than other lazy states like the 49 other states and especially Wisconsin.  Damn them and their damn bubblers!

by pjv 2006-12-12 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Not sure why the pessimism

I think that Amy Klobuchar is not an indicator of a trend, Mark Kennedy was a HORRIBLE candidate (sorry for yelling).  If you break it down, all of our Statewide candidates won with an average of 52%.  Mark Ritchie won the secretary of state by 49%, a plurality.  This was hardly a landslide, and happened in spite of a favorable national trend.  Kerry won MN by 51% as well.  Gore won MN by 48%.  We have a strong and growing 3rd Party competition that is coming directly out of the hide of the DFL.    On the state level, just a few thousand votes determined the bulk of the MN House and Senate seats.

We have reason to worry.  Minnesota is in play in 2008.  You would be silly to think otherwise.  If you don't believe in what is possible in an "anti-war" situation, look at this.  We had the wind at our backs this time, next time we may not be so lucky.

by pjv 2006-12-12 09:56AM | 0 recs

Al Frankin is a true American hero.
IMHO, the tone and tenor of the 06 elections were greatly influenced by AAR; by those who listen to it and by the MSM that echoed much of what was first stated on AAR.
As far as being a creditable candidate, Al is Harvard educated, a best selling author, and a strong family man.
Also bear in mind this is Paul Wellstone's old seat and Al would love to reclaim it for the progressive wing of the Dem party once again. Also, this is the state that brought us Jesse "the body" Ventura.
I for one am going to enjoy this debates, didn't any of you see "Man of the year"


by a148all 2006-12-12 05:37AM | 0 recs
Al Franken is Better Where on the Radio

We suffer from huge weaknesses in the VLWC, especially with the media part of the conspiracy. Al Franken does a very creditable job as a progressive radio host (although I feel he could talk a bit less and let his interesting guests carry more of the show).

What percentage does Air America add to each campaign in its media markets? Maybe we can't look at it in isolation. AA is one in a set of essential institutions that get out the progressive message: AA, plus Community Radio plus political blogs, plus Move On, plus local political groups, plus pressure on the editors at MSM. All parts are important.

Do we suffer a dearth of good, progressive candidates? Well, maybe, but surely Minnesota has someone we can support. If not then that speaks more to the lack of our Farm Teams, and I would suggest that Al Franken could have far more impact if he used his efforts to create 10 or 100 mini-Als instead of one Senator.

As a media personality Al does far more for progressive causes than any single Senator.  Please stay where you are doing more good.

by MetaData 2006-12-12 06:45AM | 0 recs
you people are crazy.

Al Franken is a lot stronger of a candidate then he is being given credit for.

I will honestly never understand why our side is so fearful of running somebody "unqualified", even when they are totally as qualified as the average candidate.

I guess all of those right wing smears of being the "party of hollywood" hit home for a lot of people?

Franken will absolutely destroy Coleman.


by neutron 2006-12-12 06:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run

Pawlenty or Kennedy, which will Norm be?

That depends on the candidate who opposes him. If you look at the 2006 election in Minnesota the winners all tended to be the ones who ran the most positive campaigns. This played out most notably in the Wetterling/Bachman race and the Hatch/Pawlenty race. This is the real trend in Minnesota. Coleman himself probably ended up winning only because of how he was able to change his campaign post plane crash.

The more I think about this race the more enthused I become about a Franken run. He has all his homework and groundwork well, he more than any other potential candidate has a direct connection to Wellstone and so will energize the base grassroots of the DFL.

Perhaps even more important an Al Franken candidacy will force a lot more republican money into the race. Only Alan Page would generate as mush local press and even he would not garner as mush national attention. Al would not have to match Colman's money only come close. With all that attention Norm would have his record constantly exposed. Norm is a Rod Grams not a Dave Durenburger republican and really would not play well statewide once that became clear. Only Al or Alan would be an asset to the races with fundraising and joint appearance energy.

I only hope that he doesn't announce too soon. Al can afford to wait.

by Judeling 2006-12-12 06:57AM | 0 recs
MN Has Same Day Voter Registration

This was a very important factor in the election of Jesse Ventura as Governor.  The youth vote is becoming very important to the Democrats as we saw in the general election and Franken will probably be very appealing to the 18-30 year old demographic.  Young people are more likely to be paying attention to the election closer to election day than other voting groups and because of same day registration they won't have the same obstacles that are in other states.

by msstaley 2006-12-12 07:49AM | 0 recs
Not convnced

Same day voter registration also brings out pro-wrestling enthusiasts.

Engaged liberals already vote.  I fail to see what demographic he will attract.  I am not at all convinced he will do well in the suburbs.  If he can't do well there, he will lose, end of story.

by pjv 2006-12-12 10:01AM | 0 recs


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