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The Republican Case For Franken

Matt Cooper makes it, arguing that Republicans should actually welcome Al Franken to the Senate:

For almost 40 years, and one could argue much longer, Republicans have dined out on liberal figures they could demonize and use to rally their base. George McGovern served this purpose long after he was trounced in the 1972 presidential contest. Ted Kennedy was God's gift to Richard Viguerie and other conservative direct mail honchos. But he's lost his power to rally the GOP and he's likely to be eulogized and sainted in the time he has left rather than bashed for socialized medicine and Chappaquiddick. In later years, Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton would serve the demon purpose but Carter's off stage and Hillary is better known as a hawk now than a Children's Defense Fund liberal (which was always a bit of a parody anyway). And if you go back to McCarthy and Nixon v. Helen Gahagan Douglas the tradition is longer. Franken could be the next foil.

I don't buy it. I think Franken has become way too careful a politician to give the GOP anything to work with. Just consider his fairly conventional, almost cautious Senate campaign; the low profile he kept during the legal battle with Coleman; and, perhaps most importantly, the models he's been using to prep for his Senate service, which he recently explained to the NYT's Adam Nagourney:

Mr. Franken said people who worked with Mrs. Clinton advised him to seek assignments on committees that deal with home state issues, and frame questions at hearings around issues of concern to Minnesota, thus sending a message both back home and to other senators.

“I think that there was a certain amount of skepticism among the other members of the Senate with both of them,” Mr. Franken said, referring to Mr. [Bill] Bradley and Mrs. Clinton. “This is a parallel with me: ‘This senator is coming in as a celebrity, are they going to get down and do the work?’ ”

If anything, I think Franken will prove to be a more boring, more disciplined Senator than, say, Paul Wellstone. The GOP's gonna have to find a better boogeyman.

--Jason Zengerle