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Franken Impresses (Again)

Regular Fix readers know that we have long been interested in the Senate candidacy of comedian turned politician Al Franken in Minnesota.

Unlike many other entertainers who have run for office as a lark, Franken seems deadly serious about his challenge to Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). The latest sign is a second straight impressive fundraising quarter put together by Franken.

From April 1 to June 30 Franken raised $1.9 million, bringing his cycle to date total to $3.3 million raised. He ended June with $2 million in the bank. As impressive, more than 36,000 donors have given to his campaign with an average contribution of just $65.

Franken's Democratic opponent -- 2000 Senate candidate Mike Ciresi -- raised $750,000 and had $625,000 on hand. Of that haul, 70 percent came from Minnesota residents, noted Ciresi campaign manager Kerry Greeley, seeking to draw an implicit contrast to Franken who relied heavily on out of state donors in the first quarter. "Mike's not a celebrity," Greeley added, explaining the financial chasm between the two candidates.

Franken's ties to California -- a treasure trove of campaign contributions -- make him something more than your average candidate for Senate. The boldface names sure to show up on his second quarter fundraising report will provide more grist for Coleman as well as state Republicans (and perhaps Ciresi albeit more quietly) to make the case that Franken is nothing more than a Hollywood liberal.

Still, money is money. And, when you compare Franken's current financial standing to the seven Democratic candidates who ran and won Senate seats in 2006 you see he is FAR ahead of their pace.

The best funded candidate at this time in the 2006 cycle was Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) who had raised nearly $2 million and had $1.6 million in the bank. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had raised $1.1 million and showed $1 million on hand. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who was not yet running, raised $109,000 in the period and had $1.97 million in the bank -- the vast majority of which came from a stockpile in his House account. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) collected just $5,000 in the second quarter of 2005 and had $39,000 in the bank. Neither Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) nor Claire McCasklll (D-Mo.) had formed campaign committees at this point.

For his part, Coleman raised $1.5 million in the quarter and banked $3.8 million. "People believe in Senator Coleman's positive vision for our state, and they're supporting his continued efforts to get things done for Minnesota," said campaign manager Cullen Sheehan.

While Franken's fundraising is eye-opening, money alone will not win him the party's nomination. First of all, Ciresi is almost certain to be financially competitive with Franken as he has several major money players including Vance Opperman on his money team and Ciresi himself has been a long time player in Democratic money circles in the state.

Second, both Franken and Ciresi have pledged to abide by the results of next June's party convention where several hundred Democratic delegates will decide the nominee. In that kind of insider game, personal contact is far more important than television advertising.

The most important thing that Franken's fundraising does for him is that it sends a signal to the activist community that Franken is serious about this race and would be ready for Coleman if he winds up being the party's nominee. And it has the added bonus of reducing doubt in regular voters' minds about Franken's electability.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 9, 2007; 3:09 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

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Posted by: Bill | August 7, 2007 7:07 AM | Report abuse

It is locked in. I am sure you whinny bunch of repukes are shanking in your boots that Mr. Frankin will win the nomination. coleman is gone, and Senator Frankin will be sworn in by a new Democratic VP. bush has been the best thing to hit the Democrats in 50 years. That is only because he is thee worse president in history!

Posted by: DW | July 16, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

That Minnesota native son Al Franken can raise money in the state of his birth and rearing should come as no suprise.

When Minnesota Senate District 62 held its annual spagetti feed early last spring, ordinary working people, young and old, stood in line outside in less than clement weather to pay to see the known probable candidates - Franken, Cerisi, Bob Olson, and Ole Saviour - debate. Over 300 people crowded (SRO) into a union hall meant to hold less than 200. Most came to see and hear Franken. Observing the event, one prominant Minnesota State Reprresentative commented, "[The size] of this crowd tells me all I need to know about this [U.S. Senate] election."

Franken has paid his dues at DFL (Democratic Farmer-Labor) bean feeds, conventions, etc. over the past few years - much like former Senators Wellstone and Dayton (and current Senator Klobuchar) did before him.

That said, Cerisi has hired the best numbers man in Minnesota, Ed Gross, to plan his campaign strategy, including a delegate-by-delegate plan to secure the required 60% of approximately 1600 State DFL Convention delegates which will convey the DFL Party's endorsement circa June, 2008. (Ed Gross's numbers and stategy were instrumental in former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura - running on the Independence party ticket - winning an upset victory in the 1998 Minnesota Governor's race.)

Incidentally, "DFL" is NOT a "local term for Dems" as "bsimon" would have you believe, but rather an acronym for the legal name for the party in Minnesota - the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party.

Historically, for much of the first half of the 20th Century, the Democratic Party was a third party in Minnesota, both in terms of voting strength and politcal clout. The primary party representing liberal, progressive interests in Minnesota at that time was the Farmer-Labor Party - a organization rooted in prairie populism which elected Congressmen, U. S. Senators, and state Governors as well as numerous state legislators. Then, as now, corporate management as well as old and new wealth was represented by the Republican Party.

Not until the mid 1940s did the two major liberal, progressive parties in Minnesota - the Farmer-Labor Party and the Democratic Party - merge under the aegis of future U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey to become the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. Since that merger no "Democratic Party" has legally existed in Minnesota - only the "Democratic Farmer-Labor Party".

Posted by: Susquatch | July 11, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

How much of Norm Coleman's money was raised out of state?

Posted by: Mel | July 11, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

How much of Norm Coleman's money was raised out of state?

Posted by: Mel | July 11, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

How much of Norm Coleman's money was raised out of state?

Posted by: Mel | July 11, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Franken is so knowledgable on the issues that it is scary. He has worked on the grass roots level for this nomination. The people of Minnesota would be lucky to have him. Hope my $10 contribution from California doesn't poison the campaign.

Posted by: Connie | July 10, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Take a look at Franken's announcement of his candidacy. It's surprisingly effective and the chord it strikes may play well in MN, especially if he can get to the general election.

Actually, it's the kind of message that might work well for the Democrats nationally.

Posted by: Yellow Dog | July 10, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The DFL Party elite (party insiders and money folks) in Minnesota are very different from the DFL delegates and activists. They really live in two different political worlds.

Ciresi has always had the backing of the elites (since he is one) but the activists/delegates have had some distrust of him.

I can see Al Franken playing well with the activists and delegates. Their major worry will be whether Franken can withstand a brutal attack by the Republicans (Norm will not have to personnally do it) and their various sham organizations in the state. The activists will worry if Franken's "liberal views" are electable in the 3rd tier suburbs and greater Minnesota (rural MN to non-Minnesotans).

However, Franken should actually do better than Ciresi with Democratic farmers (MN Farmers Union types)and rural folks who voted for Wellstone.

Posted by: rp in NH | July 10, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"Still, money is money. And, when you compare Franken's current financial standing to the seven Democratic candidates who ran and won Senate seats in 2006 you see he is FAR ahead of their pace."

This pretty much sums it up for CC. Not a peep about the candidate and what he stands for. Just that he's brought in the big bucks and that's all we need to know. Would even a half sentence regarding Franken's views be so hard to inject into all that text about money, money, money?

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | July 10, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Franken's biggest plus is that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He takes the issues and the voters seriously, but not himself. That's a winning combo everytime. (Just look at Reagan). If Coleman is that vulnerable, it wont matter who is at the top of the national ticket. That only helps in "landslides" when all the momentum is going one way. In the close calls, voters go local in focus, and separate the national from the state races where the nuts get pared from the bolts. The Dems need someone with a sense of humor on the national stage. None of the pres candidates have it, so at least they might be able to look to the Senate for some comic relief after '08.

Posted by: L Sterling | July 10, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Franken spent three years on Air America Radio, discussing every issue with some of the brightest and insightful minds in America. Al was able to keep pace on every issue. So OF COURSE he is a political dynamo! I have seen Al up close for his wife is from my hometown, and Al is the real deal. Minnesotans are lucky to have a man who lives and breathes the progressive agenda of Paul Wellstone. But we are ALL lucky enough to be able to contribute to Al Franken!

Posted by: Frederick | July 10, 2007 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Franken spent three years on Air America Radio, discussing every issue with some of the brightest and insightful minds in America. Al was able to keep pace on every issue. So OF COURSE he is a political dynamo! I have seen Al up close for his wife is from my hometown, and Al is the real deal. Minnesotans are lucky to have a man who lives and breathes the progressive agenda of Paul Wellstone. But we are ALL lucky enough to be able to contribute to Al Franken!

Posted by: Frederick | July 10, 2007 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Franken spent three years on Air America Radio, discussing every issue with some of the brightest and insightful minds in America. Al was able to keep pace on every issue. OF COURSE he is a political dynamo! I have seen Al up close for his wife is from my hometown, abd Al is the real deal. Minnesotans are lucky to have a man who deisres to carry on the progressive agenda of Paul Wellstone. But we are ALL lucky enough to be able to contribute to Al to help us restore demcoracy in America.

Posted by: Frederick | July 10, 2007 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Franken is a better actor than Thompson. He's funnier, smarter and given the mood of the country, voters are going to punish the lack of oversight, lapdog Republicans and give the Dems the White House and the Senate.

Posted by: thebob.bob | July 9, 2007 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Franken has made it clear from his very first campaign video that he is running a serious bid for the Senate. He has also shown that he knows and cares about the issues facing Minnesotans.

My only regret is that as a Hoosier, I can't vote for him.

Posted by: Brendan | July 9, 2007 9:37 PM | Report abuse

The effect the POTUS candidate has on the tickets lower down is hopelessly overrated. I don't think that will have much effect on who MN votes for.

The key thing in this race is that Franken & Ciresi have agreed to keep the fight clean, and focus their fire (before & after) on Coleman. Thats creditable, and should help bring the GOP candidate down.

Posted by: JayPe | July 9, 2007 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, CC has praised an extremely liberal democrat (and reasonably funny guy, at least in his early days). Yet Chris is a conservative shill, to listen to the extremists on this site, who only has praise for the GOP.

(Waiting for the retort)

Posted by: JD | July 9, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

bsimon - I think Frankin will win both the primary and the general elections. If the nut cases from the Democratic Party, my party, succeed in nominating Hillary Clinton, they will be throwing away any chance of taking the Whitehouse unless the Republican's nominate some completely unacceptable to the average voter. I just don't see that happening. I expect the Republican's to nominate Guliani or Thompson, either of whom would trounce Clinton or Obama in the general election. I, unfortunately, DO see the Democratic nominee being Clinton and I and millions of other Democrartic voters simply will not vote for her (or Obama). We may not vote for the Republican candidate, but right now Fred Thompson looks good to me when compared to Clinton, but we WILL sit out the election. Clinton and Obama have absolutely no chance of winnng the general election. They are too wedded to the Kennedy "give American jobs to foreign workers" and corporate crowd for thinking liberals to stomach. We've had enough of the Bush's and their politics and Clinton and Obama represent the very worst of those policies.

Posted by: MikeB | July 9, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

bsimon - I think Frankin will win both the primary and the general election. If the nut cases from the Democratic Party, my party, succeed in nominating Hillary Clinton, they will be throwing away any chance of taking the Whitehouse unless the Republican's nominate some completely unacceptable to the average voter. I just don't see that happening. I expect the Republican's to nominate Guliani or Thompson, either of whom would trounce Clinton or Obama in the general election. I, unofrtunately, do see the Democratic nominee being Clinton and I am millions of other Democrartic voters simply will not vote for her (or Obama).

Posted by: MikeB | July 9, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

It is not yet clear that raising the most money will make Franken the nominee. The DFL (local term for Dems) are fickle and sometimes unpredictable. It remains to be seen whether Franken will appeal to primary voters as a serious enough candidate. Once the general rolls around the top ticket nominees will also have an impact on the race. If Hillary is the Pres nominee with Franken for Senate, Coleman might have a fighting chance. On the flip side, if Giuliani is the Repub nominee, I don't see MN voters buying into his message & could see a bit of Coleman in that slick huckster.

I agree in general that Coleman is vulnerable, but until we know the nominees predicting his loss of the seat is a bit premature.

Posted by: bsimon | July 9, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Chris, what is especially astonishing about Mr. Frankin's candidacy is that he looks like he will win. Virtually the whole right "establishment" and right wing bloggers gave him no chance at all, treating his candidacy as if it were a publicity stunt. Well, it appears that the publicity will be Mr. Frankin's victory speech.

Posted by: MikeB | July 9, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley visited Capitol Hill just before Congress adjourned for the Fourth of July. Meetings with a half-dozen senior Republican senators were clearly intended to extinguish fires set by Sen. Richard Lugar's unexpected break from President Bush's Iraq policy. They failed.

Hadley called his expedition a "scouting trip," leading one senator to ask what he was seeking. It was not advice on how to escape from Iraq. Instead, Hadley appeared interested in how previous supporters of Bush's course had drifted away. In the process, though, he planted seeds of concern. Some senators were left with the impression that the White House still does not recognize the scope of the Iraq dilemma. Worse yet, they see the president running out the clock until April, when a depleted U.S. military can be blamed for the fiasco.

The tone set by Hadley signaled that the White House did not understand that Lugar, in his fateful speech on the Senate floor the night of June 25, was sending a distress signal to Bush that a change in policy can be instituted only by the president and that it is imperative he act now. Hadley was told that it is not too late to go back to the Iraq Study Group's 79 recommendations, neglected since their release in December. But the White House still seems unaware of the building tide, typified by the defection Thursday of six-term Republican Sen. Pete Domenici (who was not among the graybeards "scouted" by Hadley).

The White House no more expected Domenici to jump overboard than it did Lugar. The shock of Lugar's speech was the reason Hadley quickly scheduled sessions with senior Republican senators such as Lugar and Chuck Hagel, the top two GOP members on the Foreign Relations Committee, and John Warner, former chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "The president has sent me up here on a scouting mission," Hadley said to begin the meetings.

Always deferential, Hadley took copious notes. But he did more than listen. Based on what Hadley said, one senator concluded that "they just do not recognize the depth of the difficulty they are in." That difficulty entails running out of troops in nine months. Hadley increased latent fears of the U.S. military being made the fall guy -- a concern shared by many retired and some active senior officers, including a current infantry division commander.

Posted by: military is broken | July 9, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Ciresi or Franken can beat Coleman, which should be quite enjoyable to watch. Norm is completely devoid of principle, as anyone who knows MN politics can attest. Pretty tough to chair Clinton's reelection in '96, describe yourself as a "Welstone Democrat" that same year, and then turn around and run against Welstone as a Republican.

Posted by: Colin | July 9, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

all that whining from Zouk will not translate into votes behind the drawn curtain. he's just a delusional neocon sticking his thumb up his a$$.

Posted by: Gagarin | July 9, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

all that money from CA will not translate into votes behind the drawn curtain. those are just Libs sticking their finger in your eye.

Posted by: Trotsky | July 9, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The real race will be the democratic nomination and both Franken and Ciresi know it. Coleman is toast in the current political environment especially since his approval ratings are below 50%, and his disaproval ratings are at 41%, and the fact that the DSCC will have a serious financial edge come next year.

Posted by: Andy R | July 9, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

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