Before the first Tuesday in November, Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken has three primary messaging To-Dos to accomplish: 1) Wrestle the ethics issue to neutral; 2) Prove that Norm Coleman has been a Bush loyalist; and 3) Convince swing voters that Franken is an acceptable alternative.
In terms of countering ethics charges, Franken has been very active. A recent ad framed his own tax problems as an honest mistake, and then spotlighted charges about Senator Coleman’s allegedly shady Capitol Hill housing arrangement. A sequel ad employed a talking fish — perhaps a first in political advertising history — to tie his opponent to indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and his merry band of gift-giving lobbyists.
As I’ve said before, Franken’s ads won’t make voters completely forget about his ethics problems, but they don’t have to. Franken’s intention with these ads is to get enough voters to the point of thinking “yeah, both candidates have imperfect ethics, so I have to decide based on something else.” If Franken can accomplish that, he still has a shot, because this is one of the best election years for Democrats in recent memory. I maintain Franken should have disarmed the tax mistakes by offering a prompt and thorough explanation, and sincere apology, but these ads are helping a bit.
Enter the second To-Do: Tying Bush to Coleman. Coleman’s centerpiece reelection argument is that he is “bringing people together to solve problems.” That is a faux non-partisan appeal to non-partisan swing voters. Franken needs to disarm Coleman’s claim by proving that Coleman has been in lockstep with the most unpopular and partisan Presidents of our times, something Franken does pretty well in his most recent ad:
Unlike most of Franken’s ads, this one is both strategic and unique enough to stand out in the sea of nearly identical cookie cutter political commercials washing into our family rooms. It’s just entertaining enough that it won’t get completely tuned out, and it may actually get discussed at the water cooler.
The third to-do – proving that Franken is an acceptable alternative — began early in the campaign, but the Frankenoids will need to close with some more soft stuff to sell the acceptability of Franken.
Franken’s got a long ways to go in less than two months, but he is finally on-track.