General Question

BonusQuestion's avatar

Minnesota Political Junkies: can you give me some information regarding the Senate race?

Asked by BonusQuestion (1482points) September 22nd, 2008

I really like Al Franken to get elected. Can any one of you guys who is from Minnesota or is familiar with Minnesota politics tell me if he has a good chance of winning? I just saw this poll that shows it is basically statistically a dead hit. What is your take?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

12 Answers

dalepetrie's avatar

I live in Minnesota, and I too really hope Al Franken wins. For me it’s personal, I hate Norm Coleman with a passion. Norm Coleman was the Mayor of St. Paul, where I’ve lived for the past 14 years. When he was in college, he was an uber liberal, he was at the forefront of war protests in the last 60s college scene. He was a long haired pot smoking hippie of the first order. And he was always a guy who knew how to obtain power, which led him to a career in politics. Why he chose Minnesota when he’s one of those “Mayor Qumiby” east coast politicians…you know the type that adopt the JFK inflection in their speech, I’m not sure. But he became Mayor of our city, and one of his defining goals was to “bring Hockey back to Minnesota.” Seriously. That’s the one thing that drove him more than anything…we lost the North Stars to Dallas, and he made it his defining goal to get us a hockey team.

Well, somewhere in the 90s, in the midst of his first term as Mayor, the Republican Party had a little meeting with Normie. Pretty much the next day, it turned out that Norm wasn’t the pro-choice Democrat he believed himself to have been his whole life…no, he was a pro-life Republican. And he switched parties the way many people change socks.

In his tenure as Mayor, he put out costly incentives to big businesses to move their operations to downtown St. Paul, but then when they decided to outsource to foreign countries (as all big businesses did in the mid to late 90s), he didn’t go after them for welching on the deal. When he left office, St. Paul had historically high vacancy rates, and the whole downtown was a shell of what it once had been. But he did manage to convince the Minnesota legislature to spend $65 million in taxpayer money to build a new hockey arena (the Xcel Center) and some credit him for bringing hockey back to Minnesota (not the least of whom is giving credit to Norm for this is Norm himself), even though he wasn’t in elected office at the time the deal was done.

So, fast forward to 1998, he was running for Governor of our great state, up against VP Humphrey’s grandson. Humphrey was not exactly your most exciting politician and Norm had that slick veneer (and the hockey thing) and it was looking to be a pretty close race. In walks Jesse Ventura, who says things like “maybe we should do what other countries do and look at legalizing prostitution or drugs…” you know, real outside the box thinking that no politician would go near. He hired some pretty media savvy guys who had helped a local hero, Senator Paul Wellstone, get elected to Senate in 1990. As the election drew nearer, Ventura’s numbers started to go up, and Coleman seemed to be the beneficiary as he was mostly taking support away from Humphrey. But with a last minute ad push, and numbers which were in the 15 point range come election day, a lot of people (myself included) said, well, Humphrey isn’t going to win, so our best shot against Coleman is to vote for Ventura. That and the fact that a lot of people who wouldn’t normally have voted, except there was a celebrity in the race turned out, and viola, we had Governor Ventura and Norm was 2nd place.

But Karl Rove got involved, because Senator Wellstone had gotten on W’s shit list, by often being the only Senator with enough balls to stand up to him. Wellstone was the #1 threat for Bush to neutralize, and so he and Rove and the boys all went to have a chat with Normie, and next thing you know, Norm was running for Senate. A couple weeks before the 2002 Senate elections and Norm was hitting Wellstone pretty hard for deciding to run for a 3rd term when he’d originally promised only 2 (only problem w/ that logic was that he felt it necessary due to Bush getting into office, something he hadn’t foreseen in 1990). Whereas our experience with Norm governing left me feeling like he’d been asleep at the wheel, Wellstone was known for spending 80 to 100 hour weeks championing the causes of the little guy (anethema to the Bush agenda).

As it would happen, 10 days before the election, Senator Wellstone and most of his family were killed in a plane crash en route to a funeral in northern Minnesota. The Coleman campaign agreed not to get nasty at this time (and indeed they had no one to get nasty against). Wellstone was replaced by former VP Walter Mondale, and a huge memorial was held on the U of M campus. People in great pain over the loss of their hero acted somewhat inappropriately, booing some high profile Washington politicians who showed up. A good friend of Wellstone’s stood up at the service and tried to turn it into a rally, chanting “we’re gonna win” over and over. Republicans thought it was disgraceful, and coast to coast, right wing talk radio went nuts, twisting the story so that it came off as “those evil Democrats were using the death of one of their heroes for political gain.” Indeed it seemed more to me like pained people lashing out against a great injustice. Now as to the question of whether Wellstone’s crash was an accident, the official word is yes, though there are conspiracy theories…I’ll take no position on this issue, I’ll just bring it up.

Anyway, Coleman sailed to victory on the anger of what the Dems had done…Republicans turned out in record numbers because they were viscerally ANGRY. And this happened not just in Minnesota, but coast to coast. Coleman went on to become known as Bush Boy (and for a while there was even a website) because essentially Bush created him, and he went along with Bush almost 100% of the time the first couple years he was in Congress. It’s only as the election has drawn closer that he’s now trying to paint himself as a moderate.

But Minnesota has seen a growth in Republican population…we’re not the same state we were in 1984 when we were the sole holdout against the Reagan Revolution. But, we’re still a blue state…unfortunately we seem to always have one Republican Senator, and one Democrat, and it’s been rare for us to have a Democrat as governor (though we have a long and proud tradition of moderate Republicans in that office). So, where does that leave us?

Well, it’s a big I dunno, really. I think Franken can pull it off. I have concerns that most of the polling has shown Coleman slightly ahead, or at best they’ve been tied. We also have Dean Barkley in the race, Dean is a member of Jessie Ventura’s Independence party, and he was the man appointed by Governor Ventura to serve out the couple months between when Wellstone was killed and Coleman took office, so he has some credibility there. That Rasmussen poll shows him w 3% support, but an MPR poll showed him w/ 12%, and the way things work here is that the better the independent candidate does, the worse the Dem does. Furthermore, since Ventura made the Independence party efffectively a third major party in the State of Minnesota, Barkely will be included in all 4 of the Senate debates.

Which brings me to one point….the debates haven’t happened yet. We’re certainly not immune from the credit/housing crisis here, and Franken can hammer at some of the issues the Coleman has failed the state on. To his credit, Franken is being aggressive at tying Coleman to Bush, and the better he does here, the better his chances will be. It helps also that Franken was born in the Twin Cities suburb of St. Louis Park, and that his family has roots here. He has a compelling story about how his wife’s family couldn’t have made it if they weren’t able to rely on some of the social programs Coleman would be the first to eviscerate. But can he tie them succesfully enough together? Remains to be seen.

On the plus side, a couple months back, Franken was double digits behind Coleman in some polls and at least the polls are showing them relatively neck and neck. But will Barkley gain mainstream support enough to make it impossible for Franken to win, or will he be relegated the the same trasheap that most 3rd party candidates eventually are when people see how close it is and how much their defection could cost? And will Coleman’s negative ads work. You see, one thing that will energize social conservatives here is that Franken has written some rather baudy humor in his days as a humorist, and that’s going to make them come out. Another thing that will insure that Conservatives come out is that Coleman is now running an ad campaign that takes clips from some of the more red faced, angry rants Franken had in his days hosting an Air America program, so they’re portraying him as angry, without the temperament to be a Senator. And another line of attack that is working fairly well against Franken is that as an entertainer, he performed in many states, but his accountant thought he had to claim all his income in the states of residence….New York and Minnesota. So, even though Franken paid the right amount in taxes, he paid some of it to the wrong states, so Coleman is twisting that, saying that Franken didn’t pay $70k in taxes to 17 states. Now in reality, as soon as Franken found out about the mistake, he paid all his back taxes, and THEN filed for refunds where he overpaid…what anyone would do, and even though this was his accountant’s mistake and not his, Coleman is using it in his ads.

So, bottom line is, in Minnesota politics, ANYTHING can happen…in a decade I’ve seen not one but two St. Paul Mayors go from Dem to Republican, I’ve seen one of them exploit the death of his opponent to incite anger in his base and get elected, I’ve seen a well loved politician die in a plane crash 10 days before the election, I’ve seen a myriad of non Democrats elected as governor to a blue state, and I’ve seen a professional wrestler make a last minute come from behind victory. Will the anger at/hatred of Franken that Coleman is instilling in his base be a more powerful factor than the anger at the Republican establishment felt in this state? Will the fact that a Republican governor who won re-election by a mere 26,000 votes, and only after his opponent went on a red faced rant 5 days before the election, calling a reporter a “Republican whore”, has a 54% job approval rating, despite having had a bridge fall down and kill 13 people on his watch after YEARS of denying funding for highways and bridges, or will the anger over the bridge become a campaign issue and resonate with angry Democrats? Will Franken’s celebrity turn out people who aren’t being taggged as likely voters in the polls? Will the third party candidate siphon off too many votes to make the Dem electable? Will Coleman’s new image as a moderate be an easier sell to independents than his past cozying up to the Bush administration. Will Coleman’s support for the war cost him moderates? Will the fact the Coleman is a better and more polished public speaker than Franken subtly affect outcome? Will Franken seem more of an outsider than the phoney baloney Kennedyesque accent faking Coleman? And to what extent will people who are turning up for Obama help Franken ride in on his coattails? Will there be any game changers we don’t know about? What slimy attacks will Coleman come up with in the next month and a half? How will the debates go…will Franken be better on substance but Coleman on form, and which will matter more?

I am more worried about this race than I am about the Presidential race. I think there’s almost no realistic chance for McCain to win the Presidency, but I think it’s really anyone’s game in the Minnesota Senate race. All I can say is, if you have any extra $ lying around, donate it to Franken’s campaign.

MrMontpetit's avatar

“All I can say is, if you have any extra $ lying around, donate it to Franken’s campaign.” If that’s all you can say, why’d you say all the other stuff?

dalepetrie's avatar

I should say, “in conclusion, the only other thing I can say is…”

BonusQuestion's avatar

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dale. I just checked Coleman’s website. The majority of his ads are attack! Negativity usually works well but too much negativity might backfire.

dalepetrie's avatar

johnpowell, killer link!

BonusQuestion's avatar

It is an incredibly tight race. Coleman is ahead with less than 600 votes. I think, they are waiting for absentee and provisional ballots to be counted, and no doubt there will be a recount.

dalepetrie's avatar

I didn’t hear about absentee and provisional not yet being counted, that’s great news.

BonusQuestion's avatar

According to CNN Coleman’s lead is down to 320.

dalepetrie's avatar

Yeah, I see 314, so the provisional and absentee thing must be true, I didn’t see any reports about that, where did you see it?

BonusQuestion's avatar

DailyKos says “All outstanding ballots will matter, and there’s the possibility of a recount as well” So, I assumed by “outstanding” they mean provisional and absentee. Am I wrong?

dalepetrie's avatar

I think you’re probably right. I seem to recall having heard that absentee ballots are counted after regular ballots. If that’s the case, we could see a couple surprise changes down the road. I know a lot of Minnesotans voted absentee to lock in their votes and I know that many were Franken supporters. I’d feel much better if I heard that all ballots had been counted now (not just all precincts reported) and Franken had a lead, even if it was just a couple votes. MN has pretty good election laws, I kind of doubt we’d see a huge change, but then again, Franken seems to know of some irregularities…it’s just starting to feel like Minnesota’s own 2000.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther