Minn. Sen. Franken stumps with Coons in Del. senate race, reluctantly lets media into rally

By Randall Chase, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Franken stumps in Delaware for Chris Coons

NEW CASTLE, Del. — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken displayed flashes of his biting humor at a campaign rally for Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons, but Franken only let reporters in on the jokes after an appeal from the Coons campaign.

The former “Saturday Night Live” writer and actor traveled to Delaware on Thursday to lend his support to Coons against Republican Christine O’Donnell, and to urge Democrats to get out to vote in November.

“I came here today because I’m the recount kid,” said Franken, recalling how he was elected by only 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast by Minnesota voters, and only after a lengthy recount. “I’m a living example of how every vote counts.”

While members of the public were invited to the event, media representatives were initially excluded, which the Coons campaign said was at the request of Franken. After The Associated Press asked to speak to Coons about why he was allowing media to be excluded from a public campaign event, the campaign allowed reporters inside the union hall.

Franken opened his remarks by discussing the media flap.

“This was originally going to be an event that was closed to the press, but some members of the press came anyway, and they really wanted to get in,” he explained.

“They actually kind of got a little peeved; they wanted in even though it was announced that it was closed to the press,” Franken added. “So the Coons people said to me, ‘You know, would it be OK if we let the people from the press in?’ And I said ‘Of course.’”

When asked by The AP after the event why he wanted to exclude media, Franken implied that it was not his decision, even though the Coons campaign sought his approval before allowing media in.

“It might have been at my communications director’s request,” Franken said, refusing to take questions and saying he usually speaks only to Minnesota media and not national press.

The Franken speech was part political pep rally, with the senator urging Democrats to work hard over the next few weeks to elect Coons, and part comedy routine.

“Many of you have families; ignore them,” Franken jokingly told the crowd. “Not little kids, but at about eight years old, kids can survive a month of neglect if it’s for their future, and they know it is.”

O’Donnell, the tea party favorite who stunned longtime congressman Mike Castle in the GOP primary, has been the butt of jokes on late night comedy shows, including “Saturday Night Live,” but Franken did not mention her name.

While also not mentioning Castle’s name, Franken described him as “a fine man who was smeared by some other people.”

During the primary, which featured ugly remarks from both sides, O’Donnell’s supporters suggested that the 71-year-old Castle was a liberal masquerading as a GOP conservative, was so frail that he might die in office if elected to the Senate, and was cheating on his wife with a man.

While not mentioning O’Donnell, Franken did take shots at tea party candidates in general, and Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller in particular.

“I think people are having buyer’s remorse around this country, before they’ve even bought,” Franken said, an apparent reference to GOP primary victories by tea party candidates. “That’s how bad they are, … because they’re hearing crazy stuff.”

“They’re hearing in Alaska … that unemployment insurance is unconstitutional, but his wife got unemployment insurance, after HE laid her off,” Franken said of Miller. “That would usually be a disqualifier, wouldn’t it? That kind of hypocrisy?”

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