DENVER — Al Franken, who so often has been so dry on the campaign trail in his bid to unseat Sen. Norm Coleman, left Minnesotans laughing and cheering at a short speech at a breakfast delegation meeting Monday morning.
Franken got ’em with an uncanny imitation of the late Paul Wellstone.
Franken told the Minnesota delegates about a conversation he recently had with the late senator’s son, David. It seems that when David was in high school, he was a cross country runner. His father would run along with him and near the end of races, when David was exhausted and 20 feet behind the leader, his father would go into high gear.
“You can take this guy!” Wellstone would yell with passion.
Franken did a perfect imitation of Wellstone. His arms waving, his head bobbing, his voice turning Wellstonian, Franken told the crowd, “We can take this guy!” As the early-morning crowd yelled its approval, Franken said, “I’m takin’ Norm Coleman.”
Later, in the parking lot outside the hotel where the Minnesota delegation is headquartered, Franken said Wellstone imitations have long been a part of his repertoire.
“You ever seen my Wellstone ordering breakfast imitation?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Step back,” advised one of Franken’s aides.
Franken ordered breakfast, Wellstone style.
“Give me some of those scrambled eggs!” he said, the voice just right, the arms waving with excitement. “And I’d like some orange juice!!”
So where’s the humor been in his campaign against Coleman? Has Franken been too careful presenting himself as a “serious” candidate.
“You have to pick your audiences,” Franken said, turning serious. Suddenly, he started speaking in his stump-speech tone of voice.
“People want this campaign to be about what’s important in their lives,” he said, ticking off universal health care, education and a sustainable economy as the issues of the campaign.
Franken refused to acknowledge that his campaign has been buoyed by recent polls that show him making substantial gains against Coleman.
“We know to be skeptical about polls,” Franken said. “The leading indicator about what’s happening in a campaign is your gut. We’ve felt this (the tightening of the race) coming in the last six weeks.”
Franken tries to spin the fact that he has not been asked to speak to the entire Democratic convention, somewhat surprising given his star appeal. He says he’s not been invited to the big podium because of scheduling issues.
“We scheduled when we’d be here (at the convention) before they (the Democratic Party) scheduled their speakers,” Franken said.
He said that it’s more important for him to be at the Minnesota State Fair than spending much time at the national convention.
But Monday morning, some near Franken were still hopeful that Franken could be squeezed into the DNC speaking schedule before he returns to Minnesota on Tuesday.