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New poll no laughing matter for Al Franken

June 29, 2008 |  7:27 am

As long as the folks at the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute were in the field gauging voter opinion on the presidential race in four key swing states, they also conducted surveys on closely watched Senate contests in two of those locales.

The results in the White House battle, released late last week, were pretty positive for presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama and attracted wide attention. The less-noticed findings for the Senate matchups in Minnesota and Colorado painted a mixed picture for Obama's party.

In Minnesota, one-term Republican incumbent Norm Coleman led onetime "Saturday Night Live" cast member and writer Al Franken by 10 percentage points, 51% to 41%.

Franken ended up winning the state's Democratic Senate nomination more easily than expected, but during the spring he took flak over back corporate taxes he owed in 17 states and a raunchy article he wrote for Playboy magazine several years ago (when comedy still was his prime occupation).

The new poll found that Franken has not consolidated the Democratic vote in Minnesota as well as Coleman has his GOP base. But the former funnyman's big problem is with independents -- he trailed Coleman among this bloc by 20 percentage points.

Democratic hopes of adding to their slender Senate majority look better in Colorado, according to the Quinnipiac survey.

There, in a fight for an open seat currently held by a Republican who did not seek reelection, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall led his Republican foe, Bob Schaffer, by 10 points, 48% to 38%.

Schaffer famously stumbled out of the gate when, in his first television ad, an image he referred to as Pike's Peak in Colorado actually was Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

-- Don Frederick