The man who would be Senator
The January 2006 Mpls St Paul magazine (not available on line) has an article on Al Franken and his possible 2008 Senate run. The article offered some interesting insights into the man that would be Senator.
According to the article, Franken won't decide whether he will run or not until 2007, however there are several indications that it is more of a when, not an if. First indicator is (of course) the Minneapolis condominium that he and his wife bought last spring. Also, the nationally syndicated "Al Franken Show" will begin broadcasting from the Twin Cities in January. Then the article talks about a "letter written to his imaginary grandchildren, Barack, Hillary and Joe III" in which he speaks of his "victorious 2008 Senate race".
Al speaks about the impetus for his run. The Republicans "criminally cynical exploitation" of the Wellstone memorial service/campaign rally. I'm sorry Al, the only criminal cynical exploitation came from the people running the memorial service. They began the exploitation when they turned it into a campaign rally. If it had truly been a memorial service, speakers would not have been exhorting Republican politicans in attendence to vote for Walter Mondale in order to "honor Paul".
A couple of things are mentioned in the article that Republican activists and the Party need to take note of. This is not a whim. Al Franken is a progressive true believer. He loves the limelight and is quite comfortable in it. He also has hundreds of wealthy, influential friends in politics. He can (and no doubt will) bring in a cadre of entertainment and media friends to raise and donate money for the campaign. He also has a growing stack of IOU's within the state DFL. Another thing the DFL is looking to use against Senator Coleman (and Congressman Kennedy in 2006) is the unpopularity of President Bush. They intend to paint Senator Coleman as a "white, male suit who has voted consistently with George Bush". Franken is an attraction and a money magnet and the local media is already salivating over another "celebrity" candidate. However, even Al conceeds that could be detrimental to his campaign. He told the interviewer "Besides, Minnesotans may be willing to vote outside the box, but their last experience was not so hot, so they may be less willing to do it again..." GOP consultant, Sarah Janacek, is quoted as saying "People are tired of screeds from either the left or the right" and that Franken's "big city liberalism" will not play well in red suburbs like Eden Prairie and Rosemont. I hope she is correct.
Most interesting (and telling) were some anonymous DFLers who were quoted in the article. "He talks too much. He gets going on something and he doesn't know when to stop...I don't know if you can learn self control at his age." says one well placed DFL'er. "I believe in professional politicians" (ed - that what is wrong with the DFL), people who have spent their careers learning how the process works...I don't know if Al is skilled enough in the process to either get the nomination or win the election." says another. "What does Al bring to the party as a candidate? I mean, what is his defining charactaristic? That he's funny? I don't know if that's the defining quality I'm looking for in either a candidate or a Senator" said a third. OUCH!
The big thing that will hurt Franken's campaign with the progressive base is his stance on the use of the military. While he is opposed to the President's use of force in Iraq, he is not calling for the immediate pull out or even of setting a timetable for withdrawal. Granted, this could be a moot point in 2008, but given the reality of modern campaigning, he is going to need to get these people on board (for campaign contributions) today and that could hurt him badly.
I don't know which way this will play yet, but this I do know. The Republican Party can not take candidate Al lightly or they risk loosing the seat.