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On heels of convention, Ellison and Franken emerge as top Clinton advocates

Rep. Keith Ellison emerged as a valuable go-between for the Clinton campaign with Sanders supporters. Now, he's taking that message around the country.

This year — most likely due to their stunning record of accomplishments in the last few months — members of Congress were granted one of the longest summer recesses in recent memory: a seven-week reprieve from Washington spanning from mid-July to after Labor Day.

That means more time kicking back at the lake, right? For a few Minnesota Democrats, not so much.

Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Keith Ellison have spent a good deal of their recesses at far-flung party dinners, phone banks, and campus Democratic clubs, trying to get people fired up for Hillary Clinton and for Democratic candidates down the ballot.

Their travels reflect what a close observer of the Democratic National Convention might have teased out from the proceedings — that the Clinton campaign views these Minnesotans as valuable assets with distinct roles to play on the campaign trail.

Ellison, who introduced Sen. Bernie Sanders at the convention, is seen as a bridge to the progressive wing of the party; Franken, who mocked Trump in a convention speech, used to pick apart right-wing talkers for a living.

Now, as voters settle in for the home stretch of the general election, these Minnesota pols are beginning to fan out around the country to make the case for Clinton and other Democrats.

Ellison’s travels

Rep. Ellison might not be as nationally high-profile as Franken, but he’s been the most active Minnesotan on the campaign trail for Clinton and other Democrats this summer.

Since the convention, the Minneapolis Democrat has traveled to California, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Nebraska for the Clinton campaign.

As the campaign of Sanders — who Ellison endorsed for president early on — came to a close, Ellison emerged as an ideal messenger for Clinton, someone who could help bridge the gap between her and the progressives who backed Sanders.

During the DNC, Ellison’s role as a peacemaker became clear as he made the rounds with various state delegations, urging Sanders supporters to vote and organize for Clinton.

A stalwart progressive with an organizer’s pedigree, Ellison has credibility with certain constituencies that few other Clinton surrogates do — particularly with college students.

In Florida and Wisconsin — two important general election swing states — Ellison visited with organizers on college campuses to get them going for Clinton. At a meeting with student Democrats at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he talked up Clinton, bashed Trump, and offered strategies to increase voter turnout.

He also warned against third-party candidates — notably Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who Democrats fear may attract Sanders’ most ardent supporters.

According to the Daily Cardinal, a UW student newspaper, Ellison said “I’m sure [Stein] is a fine person, but if she’s polling at two, three, four percent, then she’s not going nowhere; therefore, any vote for her is a vote for Trump.”

This week, at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Ellison appeared with California Rep. Barbara Lee for the rollout of a Florida voter registration drive touted by the Clinton campaign; also in Florida, he helped with a Muslim supporters phone bank for Clinton and spoke with African-American small business owners.

Ellison is also slated to go to Michigan, where Clinton was upset in the primaries and a top state Trump is targeting, later in the recess.

Franken pushes for Clinton and a Democratic Senate

Since arriving in the Senate in 2009, Franken has mostly kept his one-liners and most biting attack lines in check. That’s changed this cycle, as he’s emerged as a persistent advocate for Clinton, and for returning his chamber to Democratic control.

But those expecting Franken to go fully Saturday Night Live on the campaign trail might be disappointed — his cracks have been matched by sober testimonials on Clinton’s trustworthiness and the importance of a Democratic Senate.

Since the convention, the party has wasted little time in deploying Franken across the country to make the case for Clinton and other Democrats: last weekend, Franken went to northern Nevada, swinging through the state capital, Carson City, and the region’s largest city, Reno.

At Democratic Party headquarters in Carson City, Franken called Trump a narcissist, according to the local Nevada Appeal, and added that you’d need a “doctorate from Trump University” to understand him.

Franken brought up Michael Bloomberg’s remarks at the DNC, in which he said that Americans should elect a president who is “sane and competent.” He said, “That’s the lowest bar we’ve ever had, but it’s true.”

Franken worked in some good local pandering, too: the local paper noted his correct pronunciation of Nevada — Nev-AD-a — a topic of great import in the state.

In Reno, where his stop included a trip to the Sands Hotel-Casino, Franken called Nevada “ground zero” for the 2016 election, saying it would be one of a few states where the battle for the White House and the U.S. Senate would be truly decided.

He also took an opportunity to push back against the notion that Clinton is untrustworthy.

Franken drew on anecdotes from the Senate, where Clinton served from 2001 to 2009. “I have not met one Republican who I’ve served with who served with Hillary who hasn’t said that her word is good and they could trust her,” he said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“I’ve known her for about 22 years and I trust her to do this job.”

In both cities, Franken plugged former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running for the seat of longtime Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who is retiring. He called her contest against U.S. Rep. Joe Heck a “dead heat.”

As the U.S. Senator who arrived to D.C. with the narrowest margin of victory — 312 votes — Franken is well-positioned to talk about the importance of showing up to vote in tight races.

Franken has ventured closer to home as well. Earlier in the recess, he went to Illinois to campaign for Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is running Senate against incumbent GOP Sen. Mark Kirk. In July, during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Franken appeared at Clinton field offices in northern Ohio.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/24/2016 - 10:53 am.


    Are Ellison and Franken contributors to the Clinton Foundation. We must support people who have special access!

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/24/2016 - 12:10 pm.

    These guys are Players, in the best sense.

    I especially appreciate the work Franken is doing to elect a Democratic Senate again! He knows, from seeing what the Republicans did by stonewalling Obama in Congress, that electing Hillary Clinton without the congress to back up her initiatives, is not enough.

  3. Submitted by Steve Rose on 08/25/2016 - 06:28 am.

    What does he mean?

    Regarding Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Ellison claims that she is “she’s not going nowhere”.

    This all seems a bit curious. In the final push in recent presidential elections, the Democrats worked to gain the vote of swing voters, undecideds, and people who don’t vote. This time, the Democrats are focused on getting the Democrats to vote for the Democrat, a daunting task.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 08/25/2016 - 10:15 am.

      No different

      They are still going after all of those people, including those to the left of traditional Democrats who might be inclined to support Stein.

      What he means, of course, is that Stein is an anti-science nut job with a child’s understanding of economics, who has zero chance of ever getting elected president. A vote for her is no different than not voting. Keith is a guy interestred in actually making a difference and has no time for people privileged enough to throw their votes away.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 08/25/2016 - 10:45 am.

        Is that what he means?

        I find that to be an unflattering and inaccurate characterization. Dr. Stein is graduated Harvard Medical School, whose testimony on the health effects of mercury and dioxin contamination from burning trash was critical to preserving the Massachusetts moratorium on incinerator construction.

        In comparison, the science credentials of the other two candidates fall woefully short

        Here is some accurate information regarding Stein from the 2012 election cycle:

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 08/25/2016 - 12:07 pm.


          It’s accurate, and actually quite charitable. Some would call her a public health menace for her positions on vaccination. She subscribes to the worst anti-science conspiracies and her Twitter feed is a non-stop promotion of ignorance. Clinton is vastly superior to Stein as far as scientific credentials go, but Stein is so bad that even Trump is more scientifically literate.

          I am still getting over her plan to eliminate student debt (described in an article here at Minnpost) by having the Federal Reserve print trillions of dollars and have the government forgive it. Not only is this impossible, it would have a catostrophic effect on the economy if it was. It is just embarrassing that otherwise intelligent people take her seriously.

          What really bothers me about Stein is not her profound ignorance, but her affiliation with the virulently anti-gay WIkileaks and her meeting with Vladimir Putin and Trump’s foreign policy adviser. You can’t make this up.

          Anyway, there are good reasons why Keith Ellison, quite correctly, believes she’s going nowhere. Part of it is because of the spoiler argument, which is a separate debate. But part of it is because Stein is a terrible, terrible candidate.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 08/25/2016 - 12:18 pm.


          Just today Stein tweeted that she considers Julian Assange a hero. This is a man who is hiding from rape charges and who just published private information about rape victims and outing gay Saudi Arabians, putting their lives in grave danger.

          Simply disgusting.

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