DFL Senate candidates agree and disagreeby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
The three candidates competing for the DFL endorsement for U.S. Senate had one final chance today to reach voters before Tuesday night's caucuses. They took part in a live debate on Minnesota Public Radio. One of them will face Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in November. And while the DFLers agree on a lot, they also differ on some points.
St. Paul, Minn. — Mike Ciresi, Al Franken and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer made nice, for the most part, during their hour-long appearance on MPR's "Midday" program.
They talked mostly about the economy, the war in Iraq, and health care. And they agree on a lot.
They all want universal health care, but have different ideas about how to achieve it. They all support a specific timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. And they all panned President Bush for his handling of the economy.
The one dust-up was between Ciresi and Franken on the Iraq war.
Ciresi says Minnesotans should know that he and Nelson-Pallmeyer opposed the war from the start, while Franken didn't.
"Al said he supported the war because he did it out of fear," Ciresi said. "And you said that, because you said you believe the people you call liars."
Franken responded that Ciresi was talking about a chapter from one of Franken's books, that satirically shows him falling prey to fear tactics from the Bush White House.
"The whole point of satire, sometimes, is hyperbole. And I frankly think it's beneath you," said Franken. "These are the kinds of tactics that I know the Republicans are going to use, but I'm really surprised it's coming from you."
"This is not a tactic," Ciresi responded. "It's meant to be a question regarding judgment."
Nelson-Pallmeyer weighed in that he used to teach conflict resolution, and offered his services to the other two. He also said he was a leader in opposing the war.
"I said we were being lied to, that this was a war that had to do with oil and establishing permanent bases in Iraq, and that it would be a disaster," said Nelson-Pallmeyer. "I think that shows good judgment, and shows I was paying attention."
It's not Iraq but the economy that has been atop recent polls as the most important issue for Americans. And the three Democrats each expressed similar views.
Take, for example, the role the environment can play in future job growth. It's hard to tell them apart.
"The environment is a phenomenal opportunity for us to develop new jobs," said Ciresi.
"There are thousands of jobs that will be needed in this state to address climate change," Nelson-Pallmeyer said.
"We're a windy state. There's no reason we can't have turbines all over the state," said Franken.
Cirisi said one fix for the economy is to overhaul the tax code to keep middle-class jobs inside the nation's borders.
Nelson-Pallmeyer said trade agreements need to be changed to narrow the country's trade deficit.
Nelson-Pallmeyer also bemoaned the huge sums of money being spent each month in Iraq, and joined Franken in calling for more construction jobs that would both boost the economy and fix aging infrastructure.
On health care, Ciresi supports the plan Hillary Clinton is touting, which is partly based on offering the same kind of health care to all Americans that members of Congress get.
Nelson-Pallmeyer wants a single-payer system.
And Franken said states should pick which system works best -- maybe the Clinton plan would work in one state, but single-payer would work well in another.
Ciresi concluded by saying that as a lawyer, he's been in the pits fighting for Minnesotans his whole life.
Franken noted his long history with a progressive movement that's now catching wind.
And Nelson-Pallmeyer suggested voters might not realize that they actually align more with him than the other two candidates.
But the caucuses are not the end for any campaign. It's just the first step in a process that ends in June, when the state DFL Party endorses a nominee to face incumbent Norm Coleman.
You might notice fewer debates and TV ads in the Senate race, as the candidates next turn their focus on trying to win support from those delegates elected at Tuesday night's caucuses.
- All Things Considered, 02/05/2008, 5:20 p.m.