Hill papers: GOP leaders tone down Coleman rhetoric

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly both featured stories in the last 24 hours about Republican leaders in Washington who are willing to support whatever decision Norm Coleman makes following the Minnesota Supreme Court decision – a notable change in tone from only weeks ago. Whereas some of Coleman’s former colleagues once called for him to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, many are now saying it is his choice.

Sen. Jon Cornyn, R-Tex., told CQ that “it’s entirely up to him.” He added that they “will support him until he decides to hang it up one way or another.” In late March, Politico reported that Cornyn was threatening “World War III” if Franken was seated before Coleman pursued a federal appeal.

Roll Call, in addition to noting Cornyn’s remarks, cited sources who indicate Coleman will not seek a further appeal if he loses in the state Supreme Court. ” ‘He will be done’ he if he loses at the state Supreme Court, one Republican predicted.”

Al Franken on Minnesota Public Radio: “We just have to be patient.”

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

“It’s very premature to prejudge the outcome of this, considering that we’re already seeing that once you start canvassing, you already see a lot of things,” Franken, the DFL challenger to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, told MPR’s Gary Eichten in a live interview moments ago.

Franken was referring to Coleman’s shrinking lead, which amounted to more than 700 votes when the senator declared victory Wednesday. That number has since dropped to 438 votes – which amounts to 0.01 percent of the nearly 3 million votes cast.

Franken said he didn’t foresee a Florida-style brouhaha surrounding the recount. The debate over the 2000 recount, Franken pointed out, took place in a state in which George W. Bush’s brother was the governor and the secretary of state had been accused by Democrats of suppressing votes. “Minnesota is very good at counting its votes. That ‘s why I feel this process will go in an orderly way. We just have to be patient.”

Recounts can change the outcome of elections, Franken said, noting that such a thing happened in the recent race for St. Louis County Attorney. In response to Coleman’s call on him to concede, Franken said: “Candidates don’t get to decide when the election’s over or who won. The voters do.”

Franken didn’t expand on his campaign’s concerns about possible irregularities in voting.

Margin shrinks again as Franken contemplates next move

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The voting margin that Sen. Norm Coleman enjoys over DFLer Al Franken has shrunk to 438, according to the Secretary of State web site. That’s 39 votes closer than yesterday’s total. The number has changed several times as the counties recheck their results and what numbers they reported.

This morning, Franken’s staffers huddled at the campaign headquarters on University Avenue in St. Paul, and we’re anticipating that they’ll reveal more about maneuvers ahead of a recount. We’re also looking for more details on alleged irregularities that the Franken campaigns says may have skewed the outcome.

Do past positions on Iraq matter?

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

tice.jpgPatricia Lopez’s look this morning at the frankentruth1.jpg evolution of Al Franken’s thinking about the Iraq war raises a good many questions. Here are a few:

One way to interpret the facts Lopez reviews is this: Neither of the DFL’s leading Senate candidates was a bold, public opponent of the Iraq war when that was a risky thing to be.

Does this matter? Or — considering that the same could be said of several top Democratic presidential hopefuls — is a candidate’s current position on the war the only thing that counts?

If previous public positions, or the lack of same, don’t matter so far as the Iraq debate is concerned, could the candidates’ history on the war still be significant in another way? Might it reveal something telling about how they may respond to unknown future controversies that prove complex, confusing, and politically hazardous?

Issues may well arise during a six-year Senate term about which we know little or nothing today. What do Franken’s and Ciresi’s responses to Iraq suggest about their likely conduct in the face of the next high-pressure debate?

If candidates’ war records do matter in some fashion, who has the more impressive (or otherwise) record?

Is it Franken, who publicly supported the war and only with time turned against it because he at first trusted the administration and later worried about the consequences of a pullout?

ciresiOr is it Ciresi, who disapproved of the war from the outset but for years took no public step to express that oppostion?

Beyond his views on the Iraq mission specifically, does this story illuminate a Franken philosophy on military policy that could displease some liberals? Does it, for example, suggest that he embraces the concept of pre-emptive war under some circumstances — say, if the threat to be pre-empted were real and the adventure was not incompetently and corruptly conducted?

At the same time, does the Franken who comes into focus in this story differ in important ways from the caricature his critics like to draw? Is this the angry extremist they often portray — wrestling with himself over the right course in Iraq, admiring the sacrifice of American troops, even empathizing with the difficulties of those he disagrees with?

Or does this look like someone whose first instinct was to set partisanship aside where national security was concerned, until unraveling events in Iraq caused him to lose faith in the policy?
Meanwhile, if Franken’s evolving sentiments on the war soften and complicate his political image, don’t they also, as Ciresi warns, make it harder to portray Sen. Norm Coleman’s changing views as opportunistic and implausible?

If Franken can honorably struggle with the issue and reposition himself — particularly as he has lost confidence in the Iraqi government — why not Coleman?

DFL influentials choose Franken

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

lopez.jpgAfter months of fence-sitting, local DFL power brokers Sam and Sylvia Kaplan say they’ve decided to throw in with comedian Al Franken, who is in a four-way endorsement franken.jpgbattle with attorney Mike Ciresi, university professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and environmentalist Jim Cohen.

Early and longtime backers of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, the Kaplans have long enjoyed making a difference in the Minnesota political scene and helped elevate Rep. Keith Ellison when he sought party endorsement for his successful fifth CD race.

Sam Kaplan said that while he likes both Franken and Ciresi, he’d been won over partly by Franken’s active support of the party.

Franken became a fixture at DFL events in 2006, criss-crossing the state to raise money for the caucus and for downballot candidates.

Few endorsements make or break a campaign, but the Kaplans’ not only put their money where their mouth is, they get other ciresipeople to do the same. Ciresi, who is far behind Franken in the race for dollars, has maintained that money should not be the driving force in the leadup to party endorsement.

Kaplan says that’s true, but adds that “fundraising is not unrelated to a campaign’s effectiveness. It’s reflective of it.”


Minnesotans of two minds, and haven’t fully made up either one

Monday, October 8th, 2007

tice.jpgWith today’s report from Kevin Diaz on Minnesotans’ latest thinking about Iraq, it becomes possible to assess the overall mood of the state as measured in the new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

The mood is mixed, to say the least.

  • Pessimism about the war is running high, as is displeasure with President Bush and Congress, and the belief that America has gotten off on the wrong track. Those findings seem linked.
  • Meantime, Minnesotans are notably more at their ease about the way things are going in the state. They’re well satisfied with the performance of Gov. Pawlenty – especially in his handling for the bridge collapse. The Legislature gets good marks on the bridge, too.
  • There is surprisingly little alarm over the condition of Minnesota bridges, and no strong sentiment for hurrying to raise gas taxes to generate more>
  • Troubles in the mortgage industry have Minnesotans worried — about harm to the economy overall. But they don’t seem fearful about direct damage to their own situations.
  • Minnesotans aren’t that crazy about any of their U.S. Senate candidates.
  • The political moral heading into ’08 is surely the unsurprising one that the war and Bush — the quality of other candidates’ anti-Bush credentials or Bush-accomplice liabilities — are the pivotal issues on which the election will turn. On most other things, Minnesotans seem sanguine or uncertain.

    Obviously, this is not good news for Republicans. But events could complicate the analysis. Today’s numbers suggest that expectations for success in Iraq are now despairingly low. As a result, even very modest signs of improvement in Iraq could change the mood disproportionately, at least for a candidate who has put some distance between himself and Bush.

    Minnesotans are clearly unhappy and unhopeful about Iraq, but they’re not sure what to do about it. Respondents are evenly split on Bush’s current plan to return to pre-surge troop levels. Forty-six percent think it doesn’t go far enough, while 43 percent think it’s about right or goes too far — a difference well within the margin of error.

    All in all, Minnesota’s mixed mood is not an easy political putt to read. A politician probably wants to disconnect from Bush. He or she probably wants to strongly favor, well, some kind of change for the better in Iraq that reduces U.S. casualties and gets troops started on their way home. Beyond that, it gets tricky.

    As for the rest, Minnesotans don’t seem eager to be frightened. Fact is, we served up in this poll a battery of questions inviting respondents to fret about subjects that have received a lot of handwringing coverage. They didn’t join in, for the most part.

    More on Coleman and Limbaugh

    Monday, October 1st, 2007

    tice.jpgAn earlier Big Question post sharing Sen. Norm Coleman’s response to the Rush Limbaugh-phony soldiers skirmish led us into the high weeds of that controversy.

    Eric Black has now explored the details of the Limbaugh dispute in some detail.

    I come away with this summary:

    Limbaugh insists that he was misunderstood and misrepresented and was actually referring to a specific, and authentically “phony” soldier — not to dissenting soldiers in general. His explanation is not impossible to accept.

    It’s also possible to believe that a reasonable person might have honestly interpreted Limbaugh to be calling all anti-war soliders “phony.”

    Coleman, at all events, was asked, not to judge what Limbaugh did or did not say, but to respond to the sentiment that there’s something phony about a soldier who publicly opposes the war. He did so, saying any such claim is “wrong.”

    A more fluid Senate race?

    Monday, October 1st, 2007

    The question of the day is whether lack of enthusiasm for existing DFL U.S. Senate candidates could prompt others to take a fresh look at a race with an incumbent whose job approval consistently tracks below 50 percent.

    DFLers have nursed a flicker of anxiety about their Senate choices for months now, fretting that neither comedian Al Franken nor attorney Mike Ciresi have what it takes to knock off what they consider an eminently beatable incumbent Republican.

    Just a few months ago, Sen. Norm Coleman was rated among the three most vulnerable Republicans in the country by pundits. But, like Minnesotans at large, the political handicappers have been less than impressed with his challengers. The competitiveness of the Minnesota race has been steadily dropping.

    Franken has the virtually the same negatives as Coleman (34% to Coleman’s 35%), but only about half the favorables (27% to Coleman’s 52%), while Ciresi is unknown to more than half of Minnesotans.

    So here’s something to chew on: With numbers like that, should DFLers be looking around for more choices or should they rally around those they have? A new candidate would face daunting obstacles, not the least of which would be the task of raising nearly $30,000 a day just to catch up and mount a credible campaign.

    Some insiders are hinting that a woman would have the inside track to national money, and a national Democratic source says that the DSCC is looking.

    What are the pros and cons? How would the dynamic change if a Tarryl Clark or Margaret Anderson Kelliher got drafted? Who else comes to mind?

    The Senate Poll: Coleman can be beaten, but maybe not by these guys

    Monday, October 1st, 2007

    tice.jpgThe new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, published today on Politically Connected, our new political website, probably leaves each of the leading Senate campaigns feeling roughly the same way.

    That is, they probably all feel pretty lousy about their own numbers but take what comfort they can from the lousy numbers of the others.

    To wit:

    Sen. Norm Coleman’s approval level, well below 50 percent, is thenorm_coleman.jpg archetypal symptom of a vulnerable incumbent. But he must be buoyed by Franken’s high negatives and Ciresi’s “Mike who?” factor.

    franken.jpgAl Franken will see reasons in this poll to be confident that Norm Coleman and Mike Ciresi can be beaten. The question that may worry him is whether they can be beaten by a candidate inspiring so many unfavorable impressions as Franken is.

    Mike Ciresi’s problem, reflected in the poll, is perhaps the easiest to fix. Aciresi candidate can introduce himself to voters more readly than he can reverse disapproval or an unfavorable impression. But with more than 40 percent of DFLers still having never heard of him, Ciresi had better get started on those introductions.

    Question: Who has the biggest worry, and the best comfort?

    What the Petraeus flap may tell us about the Senate race

    Monday, October 1st, 2007

    tice.jpgAs Kevin Diaz suggests an earlier post, the Senate race debate over’s Petraeus ad in part shows Norm Coleman, Alpetraeus.jpg Franken and Mike Ciresi positioning themselves with key constituencies.

    No doubt all three are sincere in their stated views. But surely they are not oblivious to the political effect of how they express them.

    In fact, taking a close look at how they’ve chosen to fight this skirmish could reveal much about the shape of the Senate race — and about how each of the top candidates figures his own opportunities and challenges.


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