Norm Coleman

Franken and Coleman share a flight to Washington

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

As the country awaits the outcome of the legal battle between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, two Minnesota high schoolers found the political opponents in an unlikely spot Monday evening: only feet away from each other on a flight to Washington.

Walking onto the commercial plane, the Blake School students spotted Coleman sitting in first class, only to find Franken moments later in coach.

The students were flying to D.C. with several parents to compete in National History Day, said Matt Hill, a staff member of History Day in Minnesota, who announced the odd sighting on Twitter after speaking with them.

“They said it was a very weird plane ride because the plane wasn’t very big and nobody was talking to either one,” Hill said. “Everyone was playing very Minnesota Nice about it.”

Tom Erickson, a spokesman for Coleman, said his boss was traveling to Washington Monday night to attend an event held by the Republican Jewish Coalition, where he is a consultant. Coleman has since returned to Minnesota.

“The first I heard about the fact that they might have been on the same flight was on Twitter,” Erickson said, adding that he has not had a chance to ask Coleman about the incident.

Franken’s press office did not return calls for comment.

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.

Live, from New York, it’s Al Franken’s woes!

Friday, June 6th, 2008

The continuing rough patch being endured by Al Franken got a thorough airing out nationally today on a talk radio show, where the host and callers rallied to Franken (while thoroughly trashing incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman).

Host Ed Schultz, who proudly describes himself as a lefty, devoted nearly an hour to Franken’s travails, not unusual on a local radio show, but somewhat startling on a program that’s broadcast nationwide. Schultz, normally based out of Fargo, was on the road in New York City this week.

Schultz was dismissive of Franken’s writings and descriptions of his less-than-tasteful days as a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” saying it was all irrelevant to the current campaign. He also lambasted DFLers who have taken Franken to task in recent days. And he said he had talked this morning to former candidate Mike Ciresi, who he said told him “all options are open.” (Ciresi used the same verbal formulation Thursday with a reporter for the MinnPost website).

Listeners (many identifying themselves as Minnesotans) happily followed Schultz’s lead, making light of Franken’s travails as they made thoroughly rude remarks about Coleman’s character.

Schultz and Franken have a shared history, having both once been talk show hosts under the Air America umbrella. Franken left his gig when he started his Senate run; Schultz now is syndicated by another company.

Republican red meat in Rochester

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

ROCHESTER – Minnesota’s Republicans held a pep rally at the Mayo Civic Center Thursday night, a full-throated partisan crank-up for this weekend’s state convention.

Barack Obama (more than Hillary Clinton), Nancy Pelosi, Al Franken, liberalism and the “Democrat” Party were repeatedly, if predictably, bashed. “Look at what the Democrats
offer us – Barack Obama and Al Franken are the most radical extremists this country has ever seen,” said state GOP chairman Ron Carey, decrying their “left-wing values.”

Surveying the conventional wisdom writings of what he called “the pundits” who have predicted a “slaughter” of Republicans in November, Carey predicted that “the joke’s gonna be on these folks.”

The party trotted out a couple of its congressional candidates who are facing decidedly uphill battles in deeoly blue districts come November and gave them a few minutes in the spotlight.

Ed Matthews, who is trying to take down Rep.Betty McCollum in a district that has been held by Democrats for 60 years, mentioned “change” in Washington almost as incessantly as Obama has. He said his platform is grounded on God, the U.S. Constitution and the Republican Party’s platform.

Barbara Davis-White, who is trying to knock off first-term Rep. Keith Ellison in the deeply blue Fifth Congressional District, called him “a liberal.”

“BOOOOOOOOOO,” the crowd replied.

“We cannot let our country die under the influence of Democrats and socialism,” she said, adding that Ellison is “a man who’s threatening our national security.”

Sen. Norm Coleman, whose endorsement for a second term is expected to be the centerpiece of the convention, made a brief, surprise, appearance when he introduced Sen. Tom Colburn, who gave the keynote address of the night. “Six more years,” members of the crowd roared.

“You are what defends liberty,” Colburn told the Republicans, saying the party can “regain our footing” if the party keeps its focus on Islamic radical terrorism and the federal government’s deficit spending. “There’s a culture in Washington that kicks the can down the road,” Colburn said. “It’s time that stops.”

Officially, the convention kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday.

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?

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?

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