For the past few months Al has zigzagged across the state of Minnesota visiting folks in small towns such as Nashwauk, Dilworth, St. James, Fulda, Morton, Ham Lake, Kandiyohi, Big Lake, Princeton, Gilbert, Eveleth, Otsego, Chaska, Osseo, Fort Ripley, Redwood Falls, Rogers, and Chisago City.
Al has been supporting local Democrats for years now by using his celebrity status to draw people to fund raisers and Al was instrumental in helping Tim Walz win one of the biggest upset races in Minnesota in a Republican stronghold back in 2006. Al Franken has helped raised more money for Minnesota DFL'ers and worked harder than any other Minnesota DFL activist in recent memory.
Case in point, the recent effort Al Franken poured into the candidacy of Kevin Dahle helped win another upset seat for the state DFL in a special election in Northfield Minnesota. Newly elected Kevin Dahle said of Al Franken's efforts, "He helped me every way possible. He'd have an event where there'd be a lot of people and he'd turn the stage over to me for a few minutes." Kevin also said that Al helped go door to door, sometimes in sub-zero weather. He'd go door knocking with me "He was the most dogged door knocker I've ever seen", said Kevin.
After stumbling early due to an accounting error where Al Franken's accountant inadvertently paid taxes to the wrong states, Al Franken gave a rousing speech at the DFL state convention on June 7th after winning the DFL endorsement over Jack Nelson in the first round of balloting. Al Franken has since corrected these tax errors and started his comeback climb and continued with nothing more than roll-up your sleeves hard work. The most recent Minnesota Public Radio poll had Al Franken leading incumbent Norm Coleman by 1 point after being behind by almost 15 points in June.
Al's opponent Norm Coleman has had his share of stumbles lately as well. First getting tangled in a still developing scandal where he had been renting a Washington DC apartment from a Republican lobbyist for little or no rent and more recently Norm Coleman has taken heat for taking $32,000 in campaign contributions from indicted Representative Ted Stevens and joining Ted Stevens and oil executives on luxury fishing trips to Alaska.
In what some would view as a role reversal, Norm Coleman, the Republican, has worked at government jobs for the majority of his career, whereas Al Franken, the Democrat, is coming from the private sector where he has been a writer, a comic, a small business owner and truly is what some would call an unorthodox Washington outsider.
Nevertheless this Senate race has been a closely watched race by the party insiders and has been one of most expensive senatorial races to date. At last count Al Franken and Norm Coleman had raised well over $28 million dollars combined.
Republicans have continued to try and brand Al as an angry liberal and have coined the term "Angry Al". Watching Al speak and interact with Minnesotans in person it is hard to see how that slogan will gain much traction. Al, who is was a wrestler in high school, does chuckle when people ask him about tackling a heckler at a Howard Dean speech in 2004. Al helped subdue the man until security could escort the person out. People close to Al would later say he immediately called his wife and sheepishly told her that he had done something really really stupid. As expected, the Republicans had a media field day with this event.
But Paul Begala, the former Clinton adviser and host of CNN's ''Crossfire'', would remark after the incident that, "Al has become a rallying point for Democrats." Paul would also remark that Al became a real spark for the Democrats to finally stand up and start fighting the abuses of the Bush Administration and that Al had single-handedly decoupled the words 'liberal' and 'wimp'.
Al has visited U.S. troops seven times overseas with the USO, a non profit service organization whose mission is to support our troops. He's been to Iraq four times and is well received and well respected by the troops. Al has been a strong supporter of the troops and advocate for better veterans benefits. He has made a strong distinction between himself and Norm Coleman in terms of showing more than just "lip-service" support for the troops.
Al Franken hopes to win back the Paul Wellstone seat that was lost in 2002 with his tragic and untimely death in a plane crash. Years prior, Al Franken became a good friend of Senator Wellstone and now Al often closes his speeches by quoting the late great Paul Wellstone. Al reflects on what Paul Wellstone was able to accomplish and what he meant for Minnesota by saying, "Americans have never backed away from challenges. And Minnesotans have always led the way. Our state has sent strong, progressive leaders to Washington -- from Hubert Humphrey to Walter Mondale to Paul Wellstone, and now to Amy Klobuchar. Minnesota's public servants might not always look and sound like typical politicians, but they stand by their principles and lead by their values. That's the kind of leader I think we need more of these days, and that's the kind of Senator I'll be."
Franken has been married to the same Minnesota woman for 32 years, and the campaign has become a family affair. Al's wife Franni and daughter Thomasin have joined Al tirelessly hosting house parties, fundraisers and other campaign events all across the state of Minnesota.
Minnesotans value "hard work" and Franken's campaign so far epitomizes this Midwestern credo.