In a recent ad, a jean clad Sen. Al Franken stands by a Minnesota corn field explaining that he worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass a farm bill in spite of the congressional gridlock in the state.
But to Republican challenger Mike McFadden the image of Franken as bipartisan statement is laughable, and he’s working to paint the former Saturday Night Live actor as a liberal partisan Democrat that votes with President Obama 97 percent of the time.
McFadden won’t let Franken forget – and he wants Minnesota to know that the author of the book “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot” hasn’t changed a bit.
McFadden cited billions of dollars in advertising portraying Franken as an independent voice for Minnesota who works across party lines.
Currently trailing Franken in the polls, McFadden relishes the opportunity to challenge Franken for his liberal voting record in the Senate.
In spite of his favorable polling numbers, Franken declined to debate McFadden at the Minnesota Public Radio debate with McFadden at the state fair in July – a tradition in the state for 20 years.
Franken did agree, however, to three debates later in the year, the first of which kicked off on Wednesday in Deluth.
The debates offer McFadden the opportunity to redefine Franken and shake him off of his political footing that he has carefully crafted.
In 2008, a bad year for Republicans, Franken was declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate race with Norm Colman with a slim margin of 312 votes.
But the fight didn’t end there. Franken wasn’t sworn in until July 2009, after an eight month legal struggle finally allowed him to travel to Washington and take his place as the 60th filibuster-proof Democratic caucus in the Senate.
Franken’s late start made him conscious of his slim victory, and has since carefully made Minnesota his priority.
As the liberal Senator and a former television comedian, Franken exudes a wonky populist demeanor that could easily propel him forward as a national political star with a strong media presence on MSNBC and other national media.
Franken’s serious policy image was carefully crafted during his first term, as he emphasized his desire to put Minnesota first and focus on the seriousness of the Senate in a handful of written profiles. Reporters on Capitol Hill largely ignore him, as he repeatedly declines their interviews once he discovers they are national media.
But Franken has cautiously raised his national profile ahead of his re-election campaign.
Earlier this month, he appeared on MSNBC with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss his fight to reverse Citizens United.
Franken also weighed in on the NFL’s high profile domestic violence scandal, criticizing the Minnesota Vikings for reinstating star running back Adrian Peterson in spite of accusations of child abuse.
He also made his first Sunday show appearance in May on ABC’s “This Week,” allowing himself to crack a few jokes on camera.
It might be impeccable for Democrats, but for McFadden, it’s the biggest priority in a tough fight to unseat Franken in November.