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How Franken could win

Al Franken could still win. After all, he is running in Minnesota, where volatility in the electorate has delivered us many surprises on election night in the past. And despite Franken’s problems, there is still the possibility for him to turn his campaign around in the next three months. Here are some key elements that would have to come together.

His new team must make major changes in campaign strategy and the candidate’s own authenticity on policy issues, political tactics and his own personal history.

A month ago, veteran political operative Stephanie Schriock was named campaign manager; she has since added Eric Schultz as deputy campaign manager.

Full disclosure: 12 years ago in her first race, Schriock worked for me on the Mary Rieder for Congress campaign as finance director. Since then she has had something of a rapid rise as one of the most well thought of strategists and fundraisers for Democrats in the country.

Most notably, and applicable to her new role, was her position as finance director for Howard Dean in 2004.  Before “the scream,” Dean raised piles of money over the Internet. That fundraising was the brainchild of Schriock and Joe Trippi.

Schriock and Schultz are nationally recognized pros, and can use their experience to better prepare and execute a plan that can win. That could be a challenge among what has been characterized by many as a staff that is too young and too close to Franken to be critical of him or confront issues that the campaign clearly needed to confront, such as his writings and comments as a satirist.  

Impressive list of donors
On fundraising, Franken has over 100,000 donors. That’s impressive. If the campaign can begin to turn them into auto-pay contributors or web donors, like Barack Obama has done, he could get momentum without spending money on phones and direct mail to raise funds.

The major issue that seems to be holding back Franken as a candidate is his insistence on acting like a traditional candidate.  He isn’t traditional, and he seems uncomfortable being serious all the time. That’s natural, he’s been funny (at times) most of his life. 

That is where Schriock can draw from her past work for authentic candidates. In addition to Dean, in 2006 she managed Jon Tester’s successful upset of Republican Sen. Conrad Burns in Montana. If she can tap some authenticity from Franken that can resonate with voters, Franken could begin to make up ground on Coleman. His latest ad could be a start.

Authenticity is a major plus in today’s successful candidates and it is a place where Franken could edge out Coleman.

But the most important thing Franken’s campaign has to do is to make Coleman react. So far, the only things that Coleman has had to react to were the National Journal reports about missing a few rent payments and Sen. Ted Steven’s donations. The Franken campaign should be trying to make Coleman react every day. 

There are some insights for Franken from the latest Quinnipiac/Wall Street Journal poll that shows him trailing Coleman by 15 points. According to the poll, the top issues for Minnesotans are the economy, Iraq and health care. These are three issues that Democrats across the country are winning on, and issues Franken could win on if he is authentic and well-informed on the details of the issues.

The other is energy policy: In Minnesota, 61 percent of poll respondents said they support investment in renewable energy vs. 31 percent who support gas/coal/nuclear. And when having to choose, 56 say that renewable energy should be the top energy priority.  They also trust the Democrats’ plans more on a generic basis.  Franken should be driving this home daily. 

The Bush connection
Franken is trying, but he isn’t doing it in a way that contrasts himself with Coleman and Bush. And his ideas are just party-line thinking, not out-of-the box bold initiatives we would expect from a non-traditional candidate. 

While Coleman has credibility on renewable fuels and energy, Franken should be able to make up ground with bigger, bolder policies or head on attacks of Coleman’s closeness to the Bush administration. 

Finally, you can see in Franken’s latest ad Coleman’s biggest liability – President George W. Bush, who only has a 28 percent favorable rating. Franken’s team needs to exploit Coleman’s closeness to Bush. Here’s a hint: Remember the Dick Cheney phone call urging now Gov. Tim Pawlenty out of the Senate race and all the “pro-Bush” quotes from Coleman’s first year or so in office?

Franken’s campaign is definitely a long shot, but it’s not a lost cause. Yet. If Franken can raise money more cost-effectively, make Coleman react and become more authentic to voters, he could still pull it out. Maybe.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 08/04/2008 - 03:39 pm.

    Hey Jon Larson, what did you expect from the DFL? This is a party that nominated the likes of Roger Moe and Mike Hatch for Governor when it had two candidates (Dutcher, Kelley) who would have absolutely crushed in the general election.

    Nominating candidates who can win statewide is apparently not really an objective for the DFL.

  2. Submitted by Matty Lang on 08/01/2008 - 04:23 pm.

    Sorry Steve, but you are mistaken. This is the congress controlled by the record setting number of Republican filibusters.

  3. Submitted by Steve Rose on 08/01/2008 - 01:14 pm.

    Is Coleman’s relationship to the 28% Bush a liability? Congress, who counts Coleman and Klobuchar among it’s members, has a 9% favorable rating. Why wouldn’t Coleman want the association of someone 20 points ahead?

    The U.S people should be charged with contempt of congress. 9% is a low water mark; the first time in U.S. history that congress has received a single digit approval rating. This is the congress controlled by the party of Al Franken.

    Bill Clinton was a master of managing his approval numbers. He was fascinated or obsessed with it. Using trial balloons and focus groups (marketing research), he steered his policy. Is that leading or following?

  4. Submitted by Kevin Judd on 08/01/2008 - 09:17 pm.

    I’m not sure what you mean by authentic. If it takes a campaign manager to make you authentic, I propose that you have an authenticity deficit.

    Personally, I still know many progressives who are not warm to Franken. He has to win over his own base.

  5. Submitted by Steve Rose on 08/04/2008 - 02:28 pm.


    Sorry? Don’t be sorry, just consider the facts. Harry Reid would like you to believe his claims of obstructionism, but the facts don’t support his numbers. The Democrat-controlled congress passed 94% of the bills without debate.

    According to a study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), 855 of the 911 bills passed by the Senate of the 110th Congress have been streamlined by Democratic Party leadership with a procedure known as Unanimous Consent. No vote; not even a debate.

    So why does the U.S. Senate have a nine percent approval rating? The American People expect less secrecy, and more transparency and accountability.


  6. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/02/2008 - 04:11 pm.

    The Franken “campaign” will go down as one of the great tragedies of the DFL. There were two serious candidate for the nomination. One was a world-class lawyer. The other was an utterly brilliant political thinker.

    So who did the DFL choose as its standard bearer? A buffoon. A “celebrity” who was able to crash the party with fistfuls of out of state cash. Franken was not a product of one of the country’s great political organizations–he doesn’t even know its history. Franken was wrong about the invasion of Iraq and only turned against it because the savage murders and destruction weren’t “effective” enough.

    This is a man who thinks that discovering Rushbo is a retarded bigot is worth writing a book about. He has no ideas of his own so must rely on the same political shop that is responsible for the “brilliance” of Chucky Schumer.

    So here we are. In an election year that is likely to see the Republican Party destroyed for a generation, and in one of the “bluest” states in the union, the DFL has decided to run a candidate that is literally a joke. So in spite of the blue tide, we will probably see Norm Coleman sent back to Washington.

    Me? I am so upset by this turn of events that I intend to sit out this election. Not only can I not vote for the buffoon, I cannot even stand to look my fellow party members in the eye for fear that they CAN vote for the buffoon. Because this isn’t about whether Franken runs effective television ads–this is about whether the DFL treats itself seriously. When they passed over Cerisi and Nelson-Pallmeyer for a joke, the DFL proved they shouldn’t be trusted to organize a high-school prom–much less select a candidate for US Senate.

  7. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/05/2008 - 01:27 pm.

    Dean Carlson: Agreed. I personally would like to see the party make NO endorsements and let the voters decide at the primary. Or at least make a “we like this person but our endorsement is not binding in order to leave the decision to you” endorsement.

    And I’d like to see a rule denying entry into the primary for any candidate who will not debate his/her opponents.

  8. Submitted by Jack Shepard on 08/03/2008 - 07:10 am.

    BLOIS OLSON is rigth, “There are some insights for Al Franken to learn from the latest Quinnipiac/Wall Street Journal poll that shows Al Franken trailing Senator Norm Coleman by 15 points.”

    Al Franken is an amateur politician and his race for the U.S. Senate is failing because he seems not to have learn from Limbaugh: Al Franken to beat Norm Coleman he must learn from Rush Limbaugh; like him or not he is a political genius like no other in recent American Political History Karl Rove says, “Limbaugh, of course, is the right-wing radio monologuer who has “remade American politics”.

    Limbaugh said, “We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically” and “It will sustain this soap opera, and its something we need and it would be fun too!” Clinton won the Texas primary by about 98,000 votes out of 2.8 million casts. If the exits are right, about 252,000 of those voters were Republicans, Rush Limbaugh listeners

    The thing Al Franken has to learn, like them or not; what Limbaugh and Rove do gets their Candidates elected.

    Al Franken has to realize that this election is not about if Al Franken get elected or not, it is about not letting down the Union Workers of Minnesota, who Senator Coleman abandoned, Al Franken YOU must not let down the 100,000 + working families in Minnesota who do not have healthcare while Norm Coleman just turns his back to their calls.

    Al Franken there are 1,000,000’s Americans who do not have Health Insurance because Senator Coleman voted against an amendment that would have provided over $60 billion in Health Insurance to uninsured Americans.

    The American who are now not covered by Medicare and Medicaid because Norm Coleman voted to cut $40,000,000.

    The Students who can not go to college because Norm Coleman voted to cut student loans or the mothers who do not have child support enforcement over the next 5 years because Norm Coleman voted to cut their budget.

    The struggling Union families of American Workers who need your vote to pass EFCA.

    They are struggling under the policies of Senator Norm Coleman‘s who sided with Big Business, Big oil, Big Pharmacia’s etc. and who has turned his back on the Union Workers of America, voting against helping their struggling families and even not apology to ads in his name, Norm Coleman which insulting the Union Leaders calling them Mafia Mob Bosses.

    So you owe it to the Minnesotan’s who trusted you to be a winner, so rather then name calling saying, Limbaugh is a “big fat liar” learn how He and Mr. Rove get their candidates to get elected against all odds, even against worse odds that you are present facing to get elected!

    If you wish to get elected to help the struggling American that have trusted you then if Rush Limbaugh can do it and win you Al Franken can call for it just like they have “remade American politics” you owe it to not let the people in need who worked so hard and trusted you to win anyway you can, not to do everything possible to win by using every trick in the “new political book” Mr. Rove wrote.

    So when Blois Olson says; I think Franken’s campaign is a definitely a long shot, but it’s not a lost cause because a miracle can still happen.

    As you say yet he could still pull it out.

    Maybe, at this point the only way is by accepting; like that famous song, “with a little help from friend-“Jack Shepard” and organize by giving the OK to your supporters to Rush Limbaugh Norm Coleman by organizing that massive crossover vote! That vote for Jack Shepard to eliminate Norm Coleman in his GOP U.S. Senate Primary on Sept. 9, 2008 so you are guaranteed to get elected in the General Election without Norm Coleman’s name even on the ballot!

    This way you stick around for 6 years in the U.S. seante not for you but for the people who trusted you to win! We do not what you to leave us now!

    You have to think of the people who will continue to suffer under the extreme pro-Big Business policies of Sen. Norm Coleman if you are no elected.

    Not for you, but for the 100,000’s if not 1,000,000 of Minnesotan’s who are hurting under the Big Business first Policies of Senator Norm Coleman at the expense of the struggling Union Working Families of Minnesota and America.

    You owe it to them, the people who trusted you to win Mr. Franken IT IS TIME TO ACT!

    lEARN FROM RUSH LIMBAUGH, ” YOU need Norm Coleman bloodied up politically” to win any way you can, you can also “Remake American politics”

    THE Time has come to make a break, there is not any time to wait if you wish to win, the GOP Primary is in only one month!

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