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Al Franken's Next Step: Win Over GOP Colleagues

The next task for Minnesota's new junior senator will be to complete his transformation from edgy comedian to influential politician.

To prepare, Al Franken has studied the experiences of former Sen. Bill Bradley, the basketball star who won his seat in 1979 after a Hall of Fame career with the New York Knicks. Bradley kept his head down and worked on unglamorous issues such as tax policy. Franken is determined to follow suit.

"We've talked about this -- how do you come in with a certain cachet, as Bill Bradley or Jay Rockefeller or Hillary Clinton had to do, and make sure you don't p -- off your colleagues from the get-go?" said Norman Ornstein, a close friend of Mr. Franken's and a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "He will be very cognizant of that."

Franken faces an obstacle previous Senate arrivistes didn't. In his years hosting a liberal radio show and writing books such as "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," he might find it hard to work with some Republican colleagues. Franken has friends in the GOP, but has thrived on insulting conservatives.

"Republicans will have their guard up and approach him with caution due to his overly partisan nature as a liberal media star," said Ron Bonjean, a onetime aide to Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) and former Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi. "He will have to make the first move."

Mr. Franken rose to fame as a writer and occasional performer on "Saturday Night Live" during its early days as a 1970s pop-culture phenomenon. In later years he developed his most famous character, Stuart Smalley, a self-help guru whose mantra was "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

"His politics were very apparent," said fellow SNL cast member Jane Curtin. "We had watched the Watergate hearings and it was pretty clear what we all stood for."

By 1986, he was campaigning for Democratic candidates, and a decade later he wrote the bestselling book "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and other Observations." He hosted the "Al Franken Show" on the Air America radio network from 2004 to 2007, on which he announced his Senate candidacy.

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