Showbiz talents who are also Democrats routinely raise money and campaign for political candidates — but rarely run for public office themselves. So I’ve been watching with special interest Minnesota native son Al Franken’s challenge for the U.S. Senate seat. Now, for the first time, he’s moved into his first solid lead over incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, according to a weekend Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. The survey, conducted last Tuesday through Thursday by independent pollster Princeton Survey Research Associates International among 1,084 likely Minnesota voters, shows Franken leading Coleman 43% to 34%. Part of the reason is because of Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley, who is siphoning off 18% support and playing spoiler by primarily hurting Coleman. The number of voters who view the Republican unfavorably continues to grow, after he led Franken by 4% last month. (A stung Coleman’s camp has called the new poll’s methodology “flawed”. But Obama is pulling away from McCain in the state as well.) The survey showed that 56% of the poll respondents consider the ads criticizing Franken to be “mostly unfair personal attacks”. Some of those ads by the Coleman and national Republican camps show Franken when he was an entertainer, cursing and ranting on political subjects. Certainly, that’s what most actors especially fear most: that their roles, their TV shows or movies, their careers, will be put under the microscope. And that’s the problem: Hollywood talent who are Democrats don’t want to run for elective office. Yet their Republican counterparts do — Ronald Reagan, George Murphy, Fred Grandy, Shirley Temple Black, Clint Eastwood, Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Paul Newman would have made a viable Democratic candidate. Robert Redford still could. So might Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Dreyfuss, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Ed Asner, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Jake or Maggie Gyllenhaal. But only ’20s and ’30s stage actress Helen Gahagan Douglas, Dukes Of Hazzard‘s Ben Jones, The Walton’s Ralph Waite, and Dobie Gillis’ Sheila Kuehl have run as Democrats. And now Franken.
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