A couple of months ago, Al Franken’s U.S. Senate bid might have seemed like a long shot, even when it came to politics as (un)usual in his quirky home state of Minnesota. Now, victory may be within reach for the former “SNL” star in his race against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.
An unapologetic liberal, Franken has devoted much of the campaign to attacking Coleman as a Bush lapdog, especially on Iraq and the economy — not a bad strategy against any Republican, given the President’s woeful job approval numbers. But Franken and his team spent the summer in a defensive crouch, explaining how, in contemporary comedy, a rape joke is really just a joke, and how swear words are part of the basic vocabulary. As if that weren’t enough, the Democrat became embroiled in a “scandal” over having not paid all of his state taxes from his days as an itinerant entertainer. By Labor Day, Coleman looked likely to prevail.
Then two things happened to upset the equilibrium. First, and no doubt most importantly, panic struck Wall Street with a force that was felt all the way to Hennepin Avenue and beyond. In Minnesota as elsewhere, John McCain flailed, Barack Obama soared, and down-ballot Democrats found that their already rosy prospects were rosier than ever. Written off by some over the summer, Franken was suddenly competitive again.