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Al Franken leaves ’em laughing at state delegation breakfast

DFL-endorsed Senate candidate Al Franken is shown at the party's state convention in June.
REUTERS/Eric Miller
DFL-endorsed Senate candidate Al Franken is shown at the party’s state convention in June.

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!!”

Funny stuff.

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.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Randi Reitan on 08/26/2008 - 12:33 pm.

    It was great to read that Al Franken used his beautiful gift of humor again. I have missed it. I also love that he is bringing in stories of his dear friend, Senator Paul Wellstone.

    It was hearing Al speak about Paul with such love and admiration that made me want to support him. I felt the same passion Paul had for the people of Minnesota when I heard Al speak about Paul. I have seen that passion in Al time and again during this campaign. It is a passion I believe in and I want to see returned to Washington. We are blessed that Al Franken will do just that when he is elected in November.

  2. Submitted by Bud Rosenfield on 08/26/2008 - 12:58 pm.

    It’s a fine line the candidate walks when trying to inject humor into the political “debate.” I think Franken’s right – you have to pick your spots. But I think he could run a series of ads poking fun at some common Bushisms and then adding the “What’s not funny is Norm Coleman’s support of Bush’s [fill in the blank].” The more Coleman runs from the Republicans’ record, the more Franken needs to nail him with it.

  3. Submitted by Brad Arnold on 08/26/2008 - 12:10 am.

    Franken is a funny guy, but more important is the guy he is running against-Coleman sat on a subcommittee as a freshman Senator, blocking investigations into Republican wrongdoing (his masters must have really trusted him to carry out their instruction and shield them from scrutiny). Al would never put his party ahead of the country (by the way, notice that the Coleman TV ads don’t identify him as a Republican?). It is a travesty that Coleman has held the late Paul Wellstone’s seat (irony is the highest form of humor, and tragedy is the other face of drama).

  4. Submitted by Peter Rachleff on 08/26/2008 - 12:24 pm.

    Why no mention of NWA CEO Doug Steenland’s address to the Minnesota delegation? What does the invitation tendered to him, brokered by the Teamsters’ national president, Mr. Hoffa, say about the labor commitments of the Minnesota DFL leadership? Under Mr. Steenland’s leadership, NWA pioneered the use of bankruptcy as a vehicle to bust unions, abrogate contracts, eliminate jobs, and contract out maintenance work to Mexico, Singapore, and mainland China. For the past eight years, at least, Mr. Steenland and his NWA management cronies, were major donors to the GOP. And they were paid off in spades — a pass from the FAA, friendly judges, a Justice Department which looks the other way on monopolistic mergers, a state government which does hold them accountable for job creation commitments, and a Metro Airports Commission which skims profits from vendors and delivers it to NWA coffers. Now they will abandon their Minnesota HQ and thousands of jobs, and, still the Minnesota DFL rolls out the red carpet for Mr. Steenland! What do they expect to get from the relationship? And what does he expect to get? And, if we, the naive public, are ill-served by the mass media’s failure to ask hard questions, what should we think of Mr. Grow and MinnPost’s superficial “analysis”? Sad…
    Peter Rachleff
    Macalester College

  5. Submitted by lewis berding on 09/06/2008 - 08:58 pm.

    Why doesn’t Al have better campaign ads.
    instead of a talking fish.
    he should do something classier like walk into a white room in a white he takes off his coat he says”As a satirist I was good but as a senator represen
    ting Mn I’ll be better and as he walks off the edge of the white room lighted panels with pictures(light up) in conjunction with what he is saying Like education health care,agriculture,etc.Al then exits the sound stage thru a door and he is outside by the “new bridge”
    and says.”it will take a lot of work to fix the things that are broken,but we have a good start.
    The camera fades out with an expansive arial shot of Al by the bridge with the worker.That would be an outstanding ad!IMO

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