Down-the-ballot: Franken wins DFL endorsement, AK-AL gets heated

Mike Ciresi must be regretting that he dropped out of the Minnesota Senate race for he certainly could have benefited from the series of bad news Al Franken has been suffering through. More, in any case, than Professor and activist Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer managed to as he attempted to make the most of the doubts many harbor towards Franken. The Democratic Farmer-Labor Party convention was held yesterday and today but Nelson-Pallmeyer did not carry enough weight to truly endanger Franken's hold on the nomination. In his speech at the convention, Franken sought to address the criticism head-on in an effort to convince delegates he remained electable in November: "It kills me that things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room and people in this state that they can’t count on me to be a champion for women, a champion for all Minnesotans." Franken was also helped by the backing of the DFL's Feminist Caucus, which came days after Planned Parenthood blasted Franken for his sexism.

The former comedian was endorsed on the first ballot by 62% of delegates. Franken now moves on to the primary, organized in September. The candidate who is endorsed at the DFL convention traditionally enjoys an easy primary ride as rival candidates typically withdraw and respect the convention's endorsement. Nelson-Pallmeyer did just that today as he announced his support for Franken after the result of the vote were announced. When he was still running, Mike Ciresi had also pledged to respect the will of the convention.

Thus, Franken just took a decisive step towards representing his party against Senator Norm Coleman. It is however technically still possible for a Democrat to file against him in the September primary, and the probability of that could increase if the GOP keeps up its slow trickle of oppo research and if figures of the Democratic universe (like Rep. McCollum) continue to criticize Franken and perhaps even hold back from fully supporting him. Yet, such a candidate would face very long odds given that it is already late in the game, that Franken has raised millions of dollars that would go a long way towards defeating any underfunded primary rival and that Franken is likely to have the backing of the state establishment after today's convention. With the Coleman-Franken race now much more set, we will soon see whether Republicans can successfully continue to put Franken on the defensive and whether they have many more aces up their sleeve.

Meanwhile, the Republican primary in Alaska's sole House race is getting heated as Club for Growth has endorsed Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell in his challenge to incumbent Rep. Don Young. Club for Growth, which has enjoyed a good record in primary races this year, claimed Young is the "poster child for what has gone wrong with the Republican Party in Washington” while Parnell is a "solid conservative." Club for Growth can do a lot for a candidate in a primary race and the conservative organization is especially committed to defeating an incumbent or two every cycle to bolster its reputation as a force to be reckoned with and to signal to moderate Republicans that their days are numbered (though the two most high-profile primary challenges the Club has funded, against Sen. Specter and Sen. Chaffee, both narrowly fell short). The Club's support should ensure that Parnell has the funds and organization to make his challenge to Young truly competitive.

This is actually worrisome news for Democrats. While an incumbent facing a primary and a seat opening up are generally good news for the opposing party, this is a case in which the Democrats' hopes of picking-up the district are largely related to Young's ethical troubles and the corruption allegations he is being investigated for. Given that Alaska is a very Republican state, Parnell would start the general election favored if he were to defeat Young as he would not have the baggage that has made the current incumbent an underdog against a very solid Democratic candidate.

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  • "Mike Ciresi must be regretting that he dropped out of the Minnesota Senate race for he certainly could have benefited from the series of bad news Al Franken has been suffering through"

    The latest round of 'bad news' is based on his career as a satirist and is unlikely to swing too many voters. (It had little or no effect on Webb.)

    Unless you can come up with actual evidence that it is hurting his poll numbers, you don't have the evidence needed to make that claim.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 08 June, 2008 07:20  

  • CS,

    I'm still not sure what the disagreement is. I did not claim that Al Franken had sank as a candidate. But there is little doubt that Franken did take a hit within the DFL and that what was supposed to be a formality (his endorsement at the convention) ended up being a much more suspenseful affair with Nelson-Pallmeyer suddenly becoming a hot item that at least one congressman was supporting. 62% of a convention ballot against a massively underfunded and underorganized opponent does not strike me as a show of force and the point I am making is that Franken had no rival who could take advantage of his difficulties.

    Also, Jim Webb did not let himself be on the defensive, if my memory serves me correctly, and the Dem Party rushed to his rescue. Franken has been on the defensive for a while now and his party has not yet rallied around him to defend him.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 08 June, 2008 08:38  

  • Al Franken's candiancy is not doomed, and the support of the feminists DFL Caucus as the convention has definitely helped him. Nontheless, if female DFLers refuse to support him, then he is going to have a hard time. Mike Ciresi could get in the race, but he would only succeed if Franken collasped completely, and then he would be seriously underfunded against Coleman, unlike Franken and his bucket of cash. The DSCC may not be comfortable heavily supporting Cirsei in terms of money and would prefer to test incumbents in which the GOP is safer but the Dem challangers are on the rise, not the fall.

    On the Alaska at large seat, I think a repeat of the 2006 Alaskan GOP primary and the 2008 Maryland primaries where Gilchrist and Wynn were kicked out is strongly possible. Not just because of the Club of Growth but that popular reformist Governor Palin is at least impliciting supporting her Lt. Governor in the at large race. Makes me wonder why reformist Republicans aren't challanging Ted Stevens but I guess his even longer record than Young makes the GOP not even dare to challange him. Young's best hope is that there is third canddate in the GOP primary and hopefully this person and the Lt Gov will split the anti Young vote and cause him to win. However even that is a long shot.

    If Sean Parnell wins the primary, the race will turn from lean Democrat to Likely Republican or even safe Republican. In a tradionally republican state, the Democrats will have extreme difficulty taking out a well known Republican who is associated with the reformist Governor.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 08 June, 2008 10:11  

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