Franken Beats Coleman in Second Quarter Fundraising

"Hollywood is seen, at least in the middle part of the state, as different," he said. "They live differently, have different social values. This is a socially conservative state, and that's not Hollywood.

"We don't have Paris Hilton here in Minnesota. I think the support of liberal Hollywood actors and actresses is a mixed bag. The money is great, but there is a stigma with it."

Despite his Hollywood help, Franken still trails Coleman in cash on hand, with slightly under $2 million compared to the incumbent's $3.8 million. And, although Franken's celebrity status might be helpful for fundraising, his jokester past has its drawbacks.

"I think, at this point, you have to say that Franken is still the dark horse," said Jacobs. "His track record as a comedian has created a written record and a video record that he's going to be forced to defend, and that puts him on the defensive.

"Even though he's running against a vulnerable incumbent, the campaign already is setting up as a bit of a referendum on the challenger," Jacobs added. "Is Franken up for the job? And that's because of his track record, his written record that he's being challenged about."

Even before Franken officially declared his candidacy in February, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a collection of Franken quotes, including a 2003 comment in TIME magazine where Franken denied any temptation to run for office, saying, "If I took one vote away from a serious candidate, it would be a sin."

Ron Carey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, issued a statement expressing confidence that the state "will reject Franken's divisive, scorched Earth attacks," declaring that "Al Franken fundamentally lacks the leadership qualities Minnesotans are looking for."

Despite only starting his fundraising in May, Ciresi, a wealthy trial lawyer known for winning a large settlement against the tobacco industry, also remains a contender.

"He is clearly in it," said Jacobs. "He's got enormous assets, and most people expect him to use them. He's a very serious candidate.

"But, in terms of sweat, Franken is leading the pack. He's working the state. He's running a grass roots campaign, and I didn't see that coming."

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