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Al Franken: What a short, strange trip it's been

Today, former Saturday Night Live castmember Al Franken is the toast of the Democratic Party after the Minnesota Supreme Court confirmed his ultra-narrow November 2008 senatorial victory over Republican Norm Coleman, who's finally conceded defeat. Given the hoopla, it's easy to forget how shaky his status has been, in both broadcasting and politics, over the past three years. In August 2006, Franken spoke to Westword to advance a "Stand Up 4 Change" benefit at the Paramount Theatre -- and while he'd already made noises about taking on Coleman a couple of years hence, his main gig was as a talk-show host for Air America, a liberal network that had just switched stations in New York and Cincinnati, reportedly because of lousy ratings. (Franken disputed this assertion in regard to New York but confirmed it in Cincy's case.) Two years later, the Democratic establishment dissed candidate Franken by not scheduling him to speak from the podium at the Dems' national convention in Denver -- perhaps because he was trailing badly in the polls at the time. As such, he planned to make do with a speech to the Minnesota delegation, after which he was scheduled to return north to hang out at, of all places, the Minnesota State Fair.

Those days are over, at least for a while. Franken is suddenly a party favorite, since he represents a potential filibuster-proof sixty-vote majority in the Senate. He's good enough, he's smart enough -- and gosh darn it, just enough people like him.

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