Some voters favor both Obama and Colemanby Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
An independent poll shows Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., with a 10-point lead over his DFL-endorsed challenger Al Franken. But that same poll showed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama way ahead of Republican John McCain in Minnesota. That means a significant number of Minnesotans are planning to split their tickets.
St. Paul, Minn. — Cathy Kennedy still calls herself a Republican. She actually served as a press secretary for Republican Gov. Al Quie back in the late 1970s. But this year, she's been inspired by a Democrat.
"For the very first time in my life, I attended a DFL caucus this year to vote for Obama," Kennedy said.
But she hasn't given up on the GOP, yet.
"I think the reason why we're talking is because I did give $25 to the Republican Party for kind of an anti-Franken effort," she added.
Kennedy isn't totally sold on Coleman. But at this point, she's leaning his way, because she doesn't see Franken, who has never held office before, as an acceptable alternative.
She is not alone. Take West St. Paul Democrat Matt Reubendale, 24. He volunteered for Obama before the Iowa caucuses.
"[I] went down and door-knocked in some tiny town I can't even remember the name of," he said.
But you won't catch Reubendale pitching in like that on the Coleman campaign.
"When I say that I am supporting Coleman, I guess that should be qualified by the fact that I'm going to vote for him, and that's it," he said.
Even though he's not the most enthusiastic Coleman backer, Reubendale finds Coleman's politics palatable.
"I think he's a pretty moderate Republican, even though he is being painted as very, very close to Bush," he said. "But everybody was close to Bush for a while there."
Meanwhile, Reubendale sees Franken as divisive.
"My best friends are Republicans, and I like them. And I think that they aren't bad people, and I get the feeling that Al Franken sometimes does," Reeubendale said.
Franken made his career as a political satirist. He's written biting books blasting Republicans, including "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations."
Shane Baker, another Democrat who's backing both Obama and Coleman, owns a copy of one of Franken's other books, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look At the Right."
Baker says some of the foul language Franken uses in the book seems unbecoming of a U.S. senator.
"Not that Norm Coleman doesn't curse, and not that Dick Cheney doesn't curse, but to be so bold and so brash with that is part of it," Baker said.
Baker isn't just a casual Democrat. He has been a DFL state convention delegate twice.
He also teaches high school social studies. And he likes the idea of Coleman gaining seniority in the Senate, and the influence Minnesota would gain as a result.
"As much as I love being a Democrat, I don't know that it's worth it for me as a voter to give up the position that Coleman has in the Senate, in order to move away from him to someone I do have significant questions about."
At this point, Baker says he has pretty much made up his mind and split his ticket, even though that means supporting two candidates who disagree on everything from Iraq to taxes to health care and abortion.
"There is some dissonance in my mind," Baker said. "Where I resolve that dissonance is more in statesmanship."
Or as Matt Reubendale put it, "If we put good people in government, good things happen."
Election Day is still more than four months off. And there will be plenty of campaigning between now and then.
But if this week's Quinnipiac University poll proves predictive, it certainly would not be the first time Minnesotans went for both a Republican and a Democrat in the same year.
As recently as 2006, voters went for both Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
- All Things Considered, 06/27/2008, 5:24 p.m.