Senate candidates work to get out supportersby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
For the Democratic Senate candidates, the Feb. 5 Minnesota caucuses are key to winning the DFL endorsement to run against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. The campaigns want to get their supporters to the caucuses because some of the people who attend them will eventually end up as delegates to the DFL state endorsing convention in June.
St. Paul, Minn. — All four of the candidates vying for the DFL Senate endorsement have promised to drop out of the contest if one of the others wins the endorsement. For the best chance of getting state convention delegates, candidates Mike Ciresi, Al Franken, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Jim Cohen must convince their supporters to show up at the caucuses.
Andy Barr is with the Franken campaign, which formally started nearly one year ago. Barr said the caucuses will be a real life test of the campaigns' statewide organizations. "We've been reaching out aggressively to people that have told us that they support Al," he says, "and saying hey, we're really exciting that you're supporting the campaign, here's a thing that, even if you've never done it before, you should know is the most important thing you can do right now to send Al to Washington is to come out and caucus Feb. 5.
In hopes of moving people from supporters to delegates, the campaigns have been holding caucus training sessions. Over the weekend Franken supporters jammed into a conference room at his St. Paul headquarters to learn how caucuses work.
Mike Ciresi's campaign is offering similar training. Both campaigns are distributing videos about the caucuses. And they're fielding a lot of caucus-related questions at their headquarters.
Some Twin Cities activists say Ciresi has been focusing his efforts on likely delegates in greater Minnesota at the expense of spending time with them. The Ciresi campaign acknowledges a greater Minnesota focus initially, but says it began holding numerous events in the metro area as well as around the end of October.
"What we started doing when we announced in April and through last summer and into the fall is put a lot of emphasis on greater Minnesota to get out there while the weather is good and spend time with the likely delegates out there," says Ciresi's campaign manager Kerry Greeley. "Because they're generally the same people again and again but we're doing extremely well in the Twin Cities."
The Ciresi and Franken campaigns have spent nearly $500,000 on metro area television ad time, and their commercials are running outside of the Twin Cities as well.
Democrat Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer has nowhere near the amount of money that Ciresi and Franken have. There are no Nelson-Pallmeyer TV ads.
His campaign's field director DeAmo Murphy says Nelson-Pallmeyer doesn't need TV to win over delegates. Instead, Murphy says it is all about person-to-person campaigning.
"Even though some may have more money, some maybe doing television, we're committed to respecting the delegate process because right now for this period through the endorsement, our conversation really should be with those likely delegates," says Murphy.
Unlike the president races, there will be no definitive evidence of how the DFL Senate candidates fared in the caucuses.
Still, Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier says as information about caucus attendance trickles in, some trends might emerge.
"I think you want to watch and see where, what part of the state, each of the Democratic candidates does well in," Schier says. "I would expect that Franken has been working statewide, and it will be interesting to see if he has statewide support. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer will probably do particularly well with Twin Cities liberals, and it will be interesting to see what of niche Mike Ciresi can find in that crowded field."
Schier says he expects each campaign to claim a great victory following the caucuses. But his advice is to not believe anything until June when convention balloting gets underway.
- Morning Edition, 01/29/2008, 7:50 a.m.