DFLers, GOP agree Franken is a great choiceby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
DFL endorsed Senate candidate Al Franken today sets out on a four day, two dozen city statewide campaign swing.
Franken won his party's endorsement at the DFL state convention over the weekend. Democratic and Republican party insiders are in rare agreement on Franken's candidacy. Both are saying he's a great choice to run against Republican Senator Norm Coleman.
Rochester, Minn. — In accepting DFL party backing to run against Norm Coleman, Al Franken promised an agressive campaign with an emphasis on Coleman's record.
"We're going to get up early and stay up late, and we're going to do it, because five million Minnesotans need a voice in Washington, and they don't have one in Norm Coleman," said Franken.
Franken has proved an aggressive campaigner and fund raiser. Over the past 16 months he's traveled all over Minnesota to land the endorsement.
In the days leading up to the convention some prominent DFlers joined Republicans in expressing concerns about some things Franken wrote as a comedian. There was speculation Franken might have had an unexpected challenge securing the endorsement.
But delegates, apparently unconcerned about how Franken's past might play out in the 2008 Senate race, endorsed him by acclamation over Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.
Republicans are betting that Minnesotans as a whole will not be as tolerate of Franken's past as the DFL insiders.
Minnesota Republican party chairman Ron Carey stood by all day outside the convention hall patiently waiting to provide reporters with his reaction to Franken's endorsement.
"We're very pleased," Carey said.
Carey says he's convinced Franken is a better target than a candidate.
"Al Franken has 35 years of history here, and that's just rich of all sorts of outrageous comments, so outside the mainstream and as the campaign unfolds in the next five months, I think you can count on the fact that the real Al Franken will come forward, and it's not going to be an Al Franken they're going to be drawn to. It's going to be an Al Franken that they're going to be repulsed by," Carey said.
Republicans say now that Franken has formally been endorsed, they can use everything he's said, done and written to call into question the judgment of Minnesota Democrats across-the-board.
Minnesota DFL party chairman Brian Melendez said it's fine for Franken to answer for his past, but Franken can not let the Republicans set the agenda for the election.
"If he responds to every Republican attack about these issues, they are going successfully steal this election by not talking about anything that really matters to Minnesotans, and that's what we are going to talk about," Melendez said. "That's what Al Franken is going to talk about. This election is about Norm Coleman's record."
Several DFL candidates and elected officials joined Franken on the convention stage to celebrate his endorsement. DFL 4th district Congresswoman Betty McCollum was not among them.
"I think that this has the potential of being a very large distraction," said McCollum who is concerned Franken's past could not only harm his candidacy, but also spill over to hurt other Democrats.
"He feels that saying that he was a satirist takes care of that. In my opinion many of these articles are not satire. I mean they're jokes. So let's be you know forthright and figure out -- Mr. Franken how are we going to stop talking about this this fall? What are you going to do so that we're talking about the economy, we're talking about education, we're talking about health care and we're talking about bringing out troops home from Iraq," McCollum said.
After the endorsement Franken talked about the problem he faces keeping the attention on the issues.
"And I hate to throw it back at you all, but I think the media has a responsibility to concentrate on the lives of Minnesotans, and I think all to often what the media concentrates on is inside baseball in politics, and not on the issues that actually people care about," Franken said.
But in politics voters scrutinize candidates' character right along with their positions on the issues of the day. That's why Republicans are so happy about the endorsement and some Democrats are so concerned.
- Morning Edition, 06/09/2008, 7:20 a.m.