11/27/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Throws The Kitchen Sink At Franken

The National Republican Senatorial Committee put out a kitchen-sink type ad Monday, accusing Al Franken of writing pornography, laughing at the disabled, humiliating minorities and demeaning women.

The meat of the ad is lifted, primarily, from Franken's time as a humorist. And it comes at a time when the Democratic challenger appears close to pulling of an electoral upset.

But the real back-story here is as much about Franken's opponent, Norm Coleman, as it is about the NRSC.

Several weeks ago, the Minnesota Republican pledged to launch a positive campaign. And, subsequently, he took down all negative advertisements. But he has done very little to demonstrate his disapproval of independent groups who are whacking Franken on his behalf.

The Coleman campaign insists that he is prohibited from interceding when it comes to the ads put out by the NRSC. The Senator himself has said that it would be illegal to personally contact outside organizations to "ask them to stop their negative ads."

But other candidates for office have done just that, including Rep. Chris Shays, a Republican from Connecticut and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona. And just this Sunday, Coleman emailed NRSC chair Sen. Jon Ensign about a direct mail piece sent out by the group's independent expenditure arm -- a pamphlet that looks like a children's book and accuses Franken of writing a pornography column in Playboy Magazine and "comedy routines about raping women."

In short, the Minnesota Senate race is witnessing mudslinging at least as dirty as that seen on the presidential level. And Coleman seems to be trying to appear above the fray while reaping the benefits of outside group attacks.