What's Norm Coleman doing?by Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman is defending fellow GOP lawmakers who are skipping the Republican National Convention because they're busy with re-election campaigns.
St. Paul, Minn. — Sen. Norm Coleman says the convention's first-day focus on critical business only, leaves him without the prime time, opening night welcome speech he had been preparing to deliver.
"I had a pretty good speech. I was going to welcome everyone to Pig's Eye -- you known that became St. Paul -- and talk a little about this city and the folks here who are part of this city saw a turn around, saw a change," said Coleman. "When people believe in themselves and come together, and work public-private, you can achieve great things. This area is a refection and I feel like a proud papa."
Coleman says President Bush refers to the Xcel Center as the house that Norm built. The president will not be at the Republican National Convention.
Despite the disruptions to the convention schedule, Coleman says he has no plans to cancel what he says are a couple of fundraisers. One is a lunch on Wednesday, another is what Coleman calls a "low dollar" gathering at O'Gara's in St. Paul.
Coleman says any fundraising he does will also include a plea for contributions for victims of Hurrican Gustav.
As for the political repercussions of Republicans losing attention to Gulf Coast storm coverage, Coleman dismisses the notion of any long-term damage. He says the GOP might miss the traditional post-convention bump in the polls, but he says that is usually only short-lived anyway.
"The most important thing we have to do is choose a candidate," said Coleman. "We have folks pretty excited now about our ticket, so I don't think there is any gnashing of teeth or wringing of hands. There really is an earnest concern about folks who have some real issues and those are folks facing 130 mile-an-hour winds."
Coleman says the GOP faithful are rallying behind John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Coleman says visitors to the Minnesota State Fair have made their excitement about Palin clear to him, even though Coleman says he was hoping Minnesota Gov. Tim Palwenty would get the vice presidential nod.
"Governor Palin will bring things to the ticket -- whether Tim would or wouldn't, I can't say. He was my choice," said Coleman. "If Palwenty would have been the choice, at the State Fair people would have been pumping their fist. Palin is the choice -- I've got to tell you people were pumping their fist. They were excited."
Coleman declined to speculate on whether not having Pawlenty on the presidential ticket would hurt his own re-election chances.
When asked whether the absence of Bush and Cheney from the convention might help Republicans given the adminstration's low approval rating, Coleman talked about demonstrators, and said he doesn't think most Minnesotans will sympathize with them.
"The war is not the thing that's on people's mind. They're not -- you don't have the level of anger among most Minnesotans you'll probably see on the streets," said Coleman. "People are already looking towards the future -- it's not about the president. The only thing they'll be thinking about the president is what you see today in terms of a response to a crisis and if he responds well, I think they'll say fine."
Even before the hurricane complications, many prominent GOP officials said they would not attend the convention. Coleman says they're not running from the Republican brand, but are instead busy with re-election campaigns.
Coleman predicts the tone of the Republican Convention will be more constructive than that of the Democratic National Convention last week. Democrats spent a lot of time at their convention in Denver criticizing the Bush administration.
Minnesota's DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke twice at the DNC, and is standing by to defend the Obama- Biden ticket against any GOP attacks, should respect for storm victims give way to more traditional partisan rhetoric.
Klobuchar says it's perfectly fair to consider any future McCain administration in the context of the Bush administration.
"I can see why people want to dismiss it as angry talk, but I think people have the right to know, they have the clear right to know that McCain is very close with Bush," said Klobuchar. "Their voting records are the same, so if you like what you had the last eight years, you got four more if you want to vote for McCain."
In addition to this evening's canceled speech, Coleman had been scheduled to address the RNC on Wednesday to talk about job creation and prosperity.
Coleman says if traditional convention business resumes, he's assuming events will continue as they appear on the schedule.
- All Things Considered, 09/01/2008, 6:25 p.m.