With nearly every step he took Wednesday morning in downtown Philadelphia, Sen. Al Franken inspired a mild frenzy. Democratic delegates from around the country continually approached him for handshakes or selfies, or simply shouted in his direction.
It sounds like this: Al! It's Al Franken! Hi, Al! Give 'em hell, Al! Can I get a picture, Al? Al! Great speech, Al! Al! AAAAAAAL!
His fellow Minnesotan, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, tells a story: One time she got on a plane with Franken, and the excited flight attendant announced to the passengers they had a celebrity couple on board: Mr. and Mrs. Al Franken! That gets a laugh. When it was explained Klobuchar is actually Minnesota's other senator, the flight attendant marvels that Minnesota has elected both Al Franken and his wife as senators.
Klobuchar gets roaring laughter when she tells the story, not once, not twice, but three times in the span of 90 minutes, hopping a warren of escalators at a downtown hotel and making breakfast speeches to delegates from Iowa, California and then Florida.
Franken and Klobuchar have emerged as sought-after speakers during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and nationally as Democrats try to win back control of the Senate.
But politics is a transactional business, and Klobuchar's and Franken's frantic schedules of delegate breakfasts, fundraisers, media appearances, meetings and prime-time speeches are all important ducats in the fiercely competitive world of national politics.
While Franken might be a full-fledged celeb, Klobuchar is at least a minor celebrity at the Democratic National Convention, which for political junkies is like what Comic-Con is for fantasy and sci-fi fans. The four-day event is also a rare chance for die-hard activists to mingle with and scrutinize candidates aspiring to higher office.
On Wednesday, Franken left his downtown hotel about 9:30 a.m., hopped in a waiting minivan and headed to speak at the Missouri delegation's breakfast.
"I will not repeat some of the jokes Al Franken tells in the Senate cloakroom. Let's just say some of them are for mature audiences," Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said by way of introduction. Franken shot back: "You like them."
As he did in his prime-time convention speech Monday night, Franken teed off on Republican candidate Donald Trump, and the crowd lustily ate it up.
Franken took office in 2009 after a historically close election, a recount and ensuing lawsuit. He kept a low profile initially, focused on policy and constituent service, and handily won re-election in 2014.
Since then Franken has edged closer to the national spotlight, and is now heavily in demand as a surrogate for Democratic Senate candidates around the country. He rattled off the names of candidates he's campaigned and/or fundraised for, and who he thinks are positioned to help Democrats retake the U.S. Senate majority in November: in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida.
"The worst part for me is going from one part of the convention floor to another," Franken said of his in-demand status. "Everybody wants you to stop for a picture. And if you stop for one, it's all over."
Still, Franken said he's more interested in policy than politics. He doesn't want to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the '18 election cycle, charged with candidate recruitment and fundraising.
"I want to legislate," Franken said.
Even if Franken may not have the hyper-ambitious gene of others in Washington — he already excelled in the cutthroat business of comedy — having colleagues who will remember how he helped get them to the Senate or keep them there won't hurt as he pursues his ambitious policy agenda.
He has a long list of goals if Democrats win the Senate majority: affordable child care and early childhood programs, raising the minimum wage and lowering higher education costs, improving mental health services, criminal justice reform, internet privacy and the business practices of technology companies.
Franken said the congressional gridlock of the Obama years has been a frustration. He's hopeful that Clinton, if she wins, might be able to break it even if Republicans continue to control Congress.
Klobuchar insists that this election "is like no other," and that her only aim with her flurry of convention activity is to help unite Democrats to help Clinton and the effort to take back the Senate.
Still, there's always speculation about Klobuchar's national ambitions, the result of a hard-charging style that takes her to every single Minnesota county every year, plus the occasional trip to Iowa, the sight of the first-in-the-nation caucus.
Presidential politicking often begins years before the candidates hit the national stage, as ambitious pols sweat out endless breakfasts, Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners, state conventions — and in Iowa, the Wing Ding fundraiser — wooing the very kinds of early state ward heelers, labor bosses and state legislators who are gathered here at the national convention.
Klobuchar awoke Tuesday at 4 a.m. — she says she's lucky to need very little sleep every night — to be ready for an early CNN appearance.
At the Iowa breakfast, after she regales them with the Franken story, she gives a nod to retired Sen. Tom Harkin, a beloved Iowa Democrat, and shares that the two of them share Slovenian ancestry with Melania Trump.
"You can see the resemblance," she says, and the crowd roars with laughter.
Klobuchar combines the self-deprecation Midwesterners are known for with an edge of East Coast wit. She tells the Iowans that she intends to speak for 70 minutes less than Donald Trump did last week in Cleveland. Abraham Lincoln wanted to appeal to the "better angels of our nature," she cracks, while Donald Trump offered up a 75-minute rebuttal.
She raves about First Lady Michelle Obama's speech from the night before and tells the Iowans to get to work to help Democrats win in the fall.
The Iowans love her. A state senator hands her a business card. Who knows how they could help each other in the future.
California and Florida breakfasts will follow. The California delegation is like the state itself — big, diverse and unruly — which makes for a difficult speaking venue. But Florida delegates love her.
On the way to a breakfast, some New York delegates want photos.
One remarks: "You'd make a good vice president!"