"Super Saturday" approachesby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
On Saturday DFL activists will meet at more than 30 county and senate district conventions. They'll choose delegates to the state convention who will vote in June to endorse a U.S. Senate candidate.
St. Paul, Minn. — Some of the Senate campaigns are calling it "Super Saturday." It will be one of biggest, if not the biggest, day for electing state convention delegates.
"This is probably the weekend where the highest number of delegates will be picked," said Minnesota DFL Party chair Brain Melendez. "I think we have between 100 and 200 delegates up this weekend and that's about, almost one-sixth of the state convention is going to be chosen on Saturday."
Getting state convention delegates is critical to the future of the DFL Senate campaigns.
The three most active candidates, Al Franken, Mike Ciresi and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, all say they will drop out of the race if one of the others wins the DFL endorsement to run against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
Ciresi says so far Franken has the edge over him in delegate support.
In hopes of gaining ground, Ciresi has recently put out two mailings which are sharply critical of Franken. One rips Franken for not opposing the Iraq war from beginning. Another accuses Franken of not supporting national health care reform.
Ciresi said his approach is appropriate and that he's not attacking Franken.
"I don't think that that's negative. I think that's contrasting," he said. "If there's validity at all in a caucus-type system it's informing the delegates what the candidate's positions are and where they've been on issues so they can make an informed decision. And that's not negative. Negative would be using some of his comments that he's made about people or things like that. That would be negative. I mean, we haven't done that."
Franken campaign spokeswoman Jess McIntosh disagreed.
"I think that they're definitely negative," she said.
And McIntosh said some of Ciresi's new materials are inaccurate, such as the claim Franken does not support national health care reform. McIntosh said Franken supports a national single-player health care system for children and mandating that states come up with universal coverage plans for adults. But McIntosh said Ciresi's new literature is not having much of an impact.
"I do think that there were parts of it that were unfair, but frankly we're just going to keep focusing on our campaign and focusing on Norm," she said. "We're not going to get into that distraction since our supporters don't seem to be terribly concerned by it."
But Ciresi stood by his approach.
"Let me ask you, if somebody says that they're going to let 50 states go off and create their own separate plans, is that national health care reform? Of course it's not," he said. "We need national rules and local markets."
Franken and Ciresi have dominated coverage of the DFL battle to take on Coleman. But Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer said his campaign has been generating huge support even though he's raised a small fraction of the millions Franken and Ciresi have.
Nelson-Pallmeyer is convinced that he, not Ciresi, is in second place behind Franken.
"We've got pretty good delegate numbers," he said. "We don't have all of them, but up in Duluth Mike took two and Al and I each took 10. And that was territory that was completely Al Franken territory before I got into the race, and we're seeing this all over the state."
Nelson-Pallmayer said that the more activists find out about his positions, the more they like him.
"We're seeing that on, I think three different issue areas," he said. "One the Iraq war -- that's an important one. I think also climate change. People are very concerned about the future and the other one in health care. I'm the only candidate that's following Paul Wellstone's lead and saying we need a national single payer health care system."
All three candidates agree Franken has the lead in the delegate count going into this weekend. And all three expect that by early as Saturday night they'll have a much better understanding of just how DFL activists view the campaign.
- All Things Considered, 03/07/2008, 5:50 p.m.