Coleman launches re-election bidby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman formally kicked off the re-election campaign he hopes will land him a second term in the U.S. Senate. Coleman talked about his accomplishments in Washington. He also took several shots at Al Franken, the Democrat Coleman expects he will be running against.
St. Paul, Minn. — A few hundred supporters packed a large back room of Coleman's re-election headquarters for an enthusiastic campaign sendoff.
Joined on stage by his wife and two children, Coleman trumpeted what he says is a five-and-a-half-year track record of working across party lines in Washington on behalf of Minnesotans.
"I would say with honest humility I think what I do best is what Minnesota needs most: an experienced optimistic problem solver who can do more than talk about change," he said. "I can actually bring people together to get things done for Minnesota."
Coleman talked about his public service experience prior to the Senate including his time as a prosecutor in the Minnesota Attorney General's office and his terms as St. Paul mayor.
"I am running on my record because, unlike my likely opponent, I actually have one," he said.
Throughout his speech Coleman alluded to DFLer Al Franken without mentioning Franken by name.
"What a concept," he said. "That before you serve in the Senate maybe you should have done something to show that you can actually do the job."
In addition to questioning Franken's experience, Coleman talked about how he's lived in Minnesota for more than 30 years, an apparent reference to Franken's recent move to the state. Coleman talked about his family's struggle to pay college tuition, an apparent reference to Franken's relative wealth.
And he repeatedly said Minnesotans need someone in the Senate who can cooperate, not an argumentative, polarizing figure.
"At a time like this when national partisanship is so inflamed, we need uniters, not dividers," he said. "And when all is said and done, after all the bills and all the hearings and all the votes, I would say what matters most to me are the people that I have been able to help."
Much of Coleman's public message is aimed at moderate, middle-of-the-road voters rather than partisan Republicans. Coleman often promotes himself as someone who's happy to work across party lines toward compromise.
"Part of something beats all of nothing," is a line Coleman has been using a lot.
The Minnesota DFL put out a statement accusing Coleman of being beholden to special interests at the expense of middle-class Minnesotans.
Al Franken has repeatedly criticized Coleman for his close association with the Bush administration.
Coleman didn't mention Bush during his campaign speech but addressed that issue with reporters afterwards.
"This race is about tomorrow. Al Franken's running against yesterday," he said. "His whole thing about President Bush and Norm Coleman leading Minnesota in the wrong direction. George Bush isn't on the ballot. He's talking about yesterday and running a race about division. I meant what I said, this is a time for uniters, not dividers."
Minnesota State University Mankato Political Science Professor Joseph Kunkel said it's not surprising that Coleman is spending so much time talking about Al Franken.
"He's going to have a hard time running on his record because he's been so supportive of President Bush and the war in Iraq," he said. "And that's tremendously unpopular in Minnesota, and it's going to be a very killer issue. So to the extent that he can shift the focus on to the alleged personal characteristics of his opponents it will probably benefit."
Back at the Coleman campaign kick-off, Kelly Fenton from Woodbury said she thinks Coleman's prospects for a second term are excellent.
She said on the national level Democrats will end the presidential nominating process deeply divided. Closer to home, she thinks Democrats will be in big trouble with voters this fall because of the DFL-controlled Legislature's spending.
Fenton's advice for Coleman is to zero-in on the economy.
"Put your focus on what you can do in that area and the taxes, limited government spending, focus there because I think not only Republicans but Democrats are concerned about that," she said.
Coleman will spend the next three days traveling the state. His campaign swing wraps up Saturday afternoon in Hibbing on the Iron Range in the heart of DFL territory.
- All Things Considered, 03/26/2008, 5:20 p.m.