Candidate/Comedian Al Franken Hurt by His Old 'Porn-O-Rama' Essay

A satirical "Playboy" magazine column from eight years ago becomes a campaign issue.

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Minnesota Democrat Al Franken's campaign for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman has been badly wounded by the controversy surrounding an essay he wrote for Playboy in January 2000 titled "Porn-O-Rama," and some are predicting that only a huge win in the state by presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama can save him.

Tom Horner, a public relations strategist and GOP political expert, says that comedian Franken needs to both overcome the bad publicity he's gotten over the column—including criticism from prominent state members of his own party—and convince voters that he's not simply in search of a stage like former one-term Gov. Jesse Ventura, once a professional wrestler. Horner, who characterized the state's electorate as still having a "Jesse Ventura hangover," says Minnesotans are asking whether this is "just another platform to express his views without the heavy lifting Minnesotans want."

With Coleman in a comfortable lead, Franken will have to not only cross his fingers for an Obama landslide but also attempt to make the race a referendum on Coleman's association with President Bush, Horner says. Meanwhile, Coleman can make it a "referendum on Franken's character."

—Liz Halloran