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In a startlingly personal TV ad released Thursday, Franni Franken, the wife of U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, acknowledges that she is a recovering alcoholic and talks about how her husband has supported her battle with the disease for more than 20 years.
The ad is one of two airing this week that strike back at a stream of ads by Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and the GOP that have attempted to portray DFLer Franken as angry, erratic and temperamentally unsuited for the Senate.
The ad featuring Franni Franken shows pictures of the couple and their two children as she says, "At one point in our life, I struggled with alcohol dependency. How could a mother of two fabulous, healthy children be an alcoholic?
"When I was struggling with my recovery, Al stood right by my side ... The Al Franken I know stood by me through thick and thin, so I know he'll always come through for Minnesotans."
Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh said the campaign would not comment further except to say that Franni Franken "entered the recovery community" in 1986.
"Anyone who's seen the Franken family out on the campaign trail knows Al Franken is a devoted husband and father. This ad further confirms that," said Chris Truscott, spokesman for Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley.
"It takes great courage for Franni Franken to share that story," said Coleman spokesman Mark Drake.
The ad isn't the first the campaign has used to inoculate Franken against GOP attacks on his sharp-edged political satire. In another current ad, Franken acknowledges that his comedy occasionally has "gone too far."
While Franken has never spoken publicly about his wife's disease, he has talked about his participation since 1986 in Al-Anon, an organization for relatives and friends of alcoholics. Recovery has been an ongoing theme in his work, including one of his best-known characters, Stuart Smalley.
The other ad, produced by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, suggests that Coleman's attacks on Franken are so outrageous as to be unbelievable, and that Franken's corporate lapses don't hold a candle next to the damage wrought by Coleman.
Spliced with black-and-white footage showing a ship, a train and whimpering puppies, the ad narrator intones: "Al Franken sank this ship -- crashed these trains -- and he hates puppies!
"Norm Coleman's attacks on Al Franken have gotten pretty ridiculous," the ad continues.
On Thursday, meanwhile, KSTP-TV released a poll showing Coleman with a 10-point lead over Franken and Barkley registering his highest numbers of the campaign. The SurveyUSApoll, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, found 43 percent support for Coleman, 33 percent for Franken and 19 percent for Barkley.