The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

10 January 2008

Senate Candidate Al Franken Makes Odd Slogan Choice


Stuart's Eighties Flashback Gets Road Test

Even if Al Franken's senatorial campaign fails to take off this year, we can at least thank him for the nostalgic trip down memory lane. After all, when was the last time you thought about Max Headroom or New Coke?

Whether he made the connection is unclear, but our friend Stuart is road- testing a campaign slogan that sounds suspiciously like Max's circa-1980s pitch for New Coke. Remember that one?

From the Duluth News Tribune:

Al Franken urges local Democrats to ‘catch wave’ of his candidacy


Franken spoke briefly with Duluth Mayor Don Ness, who made a short appearance and left before the speeches. Franken encouraged him to work for light rail service that would connect Duluth and the Twin Cities, a topic he also touched on in his speech.

“It would be so exciting to get rail between Duluth and the Twin Cities,” Franken said. “It would be nice to get rail, and it would be nice to get high-speed rail.”

Franken ended his speech by encouraging the now-sweaty crowd to “catch this wave” and to sign up to caucus for him on Feb. 5.

New Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson announced that he endorsed Franken’s candidacy.

Jenny Ahern and Walter Wedan were among the first to sign up after Franken’s speech.

“Everybody’s ready for a change,” Wedan said. “There is a wave, and I think we can make this country better again.”

And here's Max with his famous "New Coke" ad:

Aside from the seemingly strange choice of words, perhaps more troubling is that coverage of his candidacy is no longer quite so glowing. In the latest example from ABC News, the mainstream media is expressing some doubt as to whether he can even make it past the primaries:

Franken is far from a shoo-in for the nomination of the Democratic Farmer Labor party (DFL), which, on June 7, will pick the candidate to do battle with Coleman.

Come Feb. 5, when precinct caucuses begin, Franken will have to defeat Mike Ciresi, a wealthy trial lawyer best known for winning a huge settlement against the tobacco industry in 1998.

The Ciresi camp hopes that voters will view him as a less polarizing, and, therefore, more electable, candidate than Franken.

"What matters most to people on the Democrat side is who can beat Norm Coleman," said Ciresi communications director Leslie Sandburg. "And all the polls reflect that Mike Ciresi is the strongest candidate to win in November. Mike is closest to Norm, and he does not have the negatives that our challenger has."

Those negatives, specifically Franken's comic career, could prove a tough obstacle to overcome, according to Jacobs.

"Franken has got a record as a comedian that will be mined by his opponents, to portray him as outside the mainstream of Minnesota," he said. "That's a tough situation to face in the final weeks of a campaign, and it's something that could well turn off swing voters who haven't made up their minds."

Sandburg cites Ciresi's "respectable, personable approach" to campaigning, and vital endorsements, such as that of Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, as evidence that Ciresi can spring the upset over Franken.

For Stuart, this shift in tone has got to be unsettling, as previous mainstream media coverage has been so fawning, we gave it a name: frankenfluff. Though Minnesota does have a history of electing odd birds, including celebs, only time will tell whether locals see right through his Hollywood- backed campaign.

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