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Don Davis, Published August 03 2009

Notebook: Franken’s Senate performance gets rave reviews

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s new U.S. senator has received rave reviews from many during his stint – nearly a month – in Washington.

One of the most recent was a contributor to a prominent political blog.

“A Senate star is born” reads the headline on Doug Kendall’s Huffington Post Web site contribution.

Kendall extensively quotes from a Sen. Al Franken speech of a few days ago supporting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Kendall praises the Minnesota Democrat for his criticism of the current court, populated in a large part by Republican presidential appointments.

“This is a court that is willing to reverse itself to limit the rights of individual Americans,” Franken said. “This is a court that is more than willing to overturn Congress to achieve its own agenda of what is right.”

After listening to the entire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sotomayor, Kendall writes, “I can say with confidence that no one made these points as concisely and powerfully as Sen. Al Franken did.”

During the hearing, Kendall said, Franken was both thoughtful and funny: “After shutting down his funny-gene for most of his campaign, Franken was laugh-out-loud funny at times in the hearings, stumping Judge Sotomayor with a question about a Perry Mason episode and grabbing an opportunity to briefly assume the chairman’s chair in his first week in the Senate.”

Start with jokes

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty rehearsed what could be his presidential campaign stump speech with the Republican National Committee, and like any good speaker he knew to start with jokes.

“If you are a Republican in Minnesota, it is like being a polar bear in Miami,” Pawlenty said as he opened his San Diego speech Thursday.

The jokes got more partisan as Pawlenty moved on: “Apparently President Obama is making great progress on climate change. He is changing the political climate of this country toward Republicans.”

Earlier in the week, the potential presidential candidate took another step on the national stage when the Republican Governors’ Association announced Pawlenty was elected vice chairman of the group.

Klobuchar for prez?

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza was pontificating in his The Fix blog about a lack of credible female politicians ready to run for president when many of his readers offered up a name: Amy Klobuchar.

A year ago, the Minnesota Democrat in her first term as U.S. senator was mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate for Barack Obama. Now, several are thinking about her for the top spot in 2016, although one person responding to Cillizza suggested Vice President Joe Biden could be a one-termer, with Klobuchar becoming Obama’s second-term running mate.

Klobuchar’s name has come up before as potential presidential timber, but not nearly often as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who the national media has taken to calling T-Paw.

“I think Klobuchar of Minnesota has the best chance of anyone currently in Washington,” one person posted.

Added another: “Amy Klobuchar is a machine. She works on her job as a senator and her political profile literally day and night. If T-Paw can be considered a national candidate with two wins at 42 percent of the popular vote, then certainly a 57 percent vote winner in Purple MN can get on the national stage. No one – literally no one – will outwork her.”

But some Cillizza readers noted a potential Klobuchar downfall.

“Very likeable and certainly competent, she has a goofiness that wouldn’t work well on the presidential trail,” one wrote.

“I actually like her a lot, but she might be a little too quirky to win a nationwide election,” added another. “Kind of like Joe Biden, but without the ego.”


Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com