It is difficult to resist calling Sen. Al Franken a former funny man, though once upon a time (maybe in the era of Milton Berle) that is how we identified people who made others laugh for a living. Anyway, no one is laughing at Al now.
For a guy who barely squeaked into the Senate by 312 votes in 2008, he seems to have a pretty good lock on his job in the 2014 elections.
Four years into his term, Franken barely figures into the GOP's calculations for trying to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats. Republicans don't consider him a top target for defeat, and they haven't found a strong challenger in the Democratic-leaning state.
Those who know say he has succeed by keeping his head down and doing the work, in essence, by avoiding the national spotlight. This can't have been easy for a guy who spent so much of his life on stage, but he has managed. He rarely talks to the press and has steadfastly refused to make use of his skill for comedy.
"People have seen that I did what I said I would do. I came to Washington, I put my shoulder to the wheel and I did the work," Franken said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, expressing optimism that he'll be re-elected. He punted on the question of whether he'd seek a more prominent national voice in a second term, saying: "I'm more worried about what I'm working on tomorrow."
Having won by such a narrow margin in a three-way race in 2008, the GOP probably assumed Franken would be relatively easy to take down. And while they may still be saying he is beatable, it sounds like even they don't really believe that. As one indicator, last fall more than 50 percent of those polled liked the job Franken was doing.
So far, Franken has two definite Republican challengers: Mike McFadden, a businessman and political unknown; and Jim Abeler, an eight-term state representative who's never run for higher office. Another lawmaker, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, is also considering a bid.
Yes, well, get out the fly swatter.
Yet more proof that second acts in American lives are indeed possible.
Labels: Minnesota, US Senate