Al Franken’s colleagues on Capitol Hill and former colleagues on Saturday Night Live might be circling the wagons around him after two allegations of sexual harassment have emerged. The one group that really matters has not — his constituents. A new poll commissioned by local ABC affiliate KSTP shows that only 22% of Minnesotans believe Franken should remain in office, with the remainder split almost evenly between waiting out a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and an immediate resignation. Veteran political analyst Steven Schier notes that there is no good news for Franken anywhere in this poll:
In less than a week since sexual harassment allegations were leveled against Minnesota Senator Al Franken, his approval rating has plummeted and many Minnesotans say he should resign, according to an exclusive KSTP/SurveyUSA poll.
In a poll conducted Monday night after allegations from a second woman were made public, only 22 percent of 600 Minnesotans surveyed said he should remain in office. Another 33 percent say he should resign, while 36 percent say he should wait for results of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.
“To me the striking findings in this poll are first, that only 22 percent are behind Al Franken staying in office,” Carleton College Political Scientist Steven Schier said.
Schier (a friend of mine) also points out that the demographics are uniformly terrible for Franken, too. Even among Democrats, only 34% support Franken remaining in office, although only 14% want an immediate resignation. Nearly half — 46% — are holding their breath for the Ethics Committee report, or more likely, possibly waiting to see if anyone else comes forward” as KSTP describes Franken himself.
Another interesting point that emerges is that women and men are roughly similar on the question, with men being slightly tougher on Franken. Thirty percent of women want an immediate Franken resignation, while 35% of men demand the same. Slightly more women than men want Franken to remain in office, but that’s a margin-of-error difference (23% and 21%, respectively). The proportions are largely the same as each other and the overall result.
What happens if Franken stays in office? Only 32% of Minnesotans will consider him effective, although given Franken’s backbencher status and lack of status within the caucus it might be tough to tell the difference. Even among Minnesota Democrats, only 52% think Franken will make an effective Senator under the circumstances. Furthermore, his approval ratings have plunged dramatically — from 53% a year ago to 36% now, just five points above Donald Trump’s in the state. Just how effective can a lame duck be?
If no one else comes forward after this, the dreary parade of perversion may pass Franken by and allow him to stick around until the end of his term in 2020. Franken’s crimes may fade in the blizzard of more serious allegations about assaults, cover-ups, and corruption on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, and the media. Even if he manages to do so, though, his political career is likely over in this state. Democrats have plenty of other potential candidates to run in that seat, and there’s simply no way the DFL will allow Franken to represent them in another election with that picture of Franken leering and groping a sleeping Leeann Tweeden:
That’s if no other allegations arise in the meantime. And that’s a mighty big if. The bar has been set high in the state after two Minnesota state legislators resigned yesterday in separate sexual-harassment scandals, one from each party:
Two Minnesota state lawmakers hit by sexual misconduct allegations announced Tuesday they would resign, less than two weeks after they were accused of misdeeds that ranged from groping colleagues to persistent unwanted sexual advances and sexting.
Democratic Sen. Dan Schoen, who allegedly grabbed a woman’s buttocks at a campaign event and made unwanted advances toward other women — including sending Snapchat photos of male genitalia to a female Senate employee — was the first to go, with his attorney saying Schoen had decided he could no longer be effective.
Hours later, Republican Rep. Tony Cornish said he would step down by Dec. 1. Cornish was the subject of an external investigation in the House into widespread sexual misconduct over his eight terms in office, including an anonymous lobbyist who told Minnesota Public Radio News that he propositioned her for sex dozens of times over the past several years and once forced her into a wall in his office while trying to kiss her.
Minnesotans aren’t in the mood right now for legislators who abuse their positions to perform lewd acts on unwilling others. If Franken intends to keep his Senate seat, he might want to move permanently to Washington DC.