June 2008

Pawlenty on McCain and the evangelical vote

Monday, June 30th, 2008

David Brody, the national correspondent for CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network, posted this interview with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today on his blog. Pawlenty, a national co-chairman of the John McCain campaign, acknowledges that the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee needs to reach out more to evangelicals and said there are plans to do.

This comes a day after McCain courted the Rev. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, at the Graham’s North Carolina retreat. After 45 minutes, pleasant words were spoken but no endorsement was immediately forthcoming.

For anyone seeking further insight into the role of evangelicals in the 2008 election, let this recent conversation with Ralph Reed by Charlie Rose serve as a primer.

As an aside of interest to Minnesota, Pawlenty’s characterization of McCain’s faith to Brody might sound very much like how Pawlenty’s faith is viewed by the general public: on the surface nothing particularly overt. But it is worth noting that the Pawlentys are members of the congregation of the Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. The Rev. Leith Anderson is the senior pastor at the church who also happens to be president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which claims a membership of over 30 million.

Further down on the link, Brody also asks Pawlenty “the Veep” question and gets the standard “Veep.” answer.

Obama and Coleman, again

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Public Opinion Strategies, a consulting and polling firm based in Washington, released a poll today showing that while Obama has nine points on McCain in Minnesota, in the Senate race it’s Republican Coleman who’s up nine points on Democrat Franken.

That’s not strikingly different from what other recent polls have indicated. Last month, the Minnesota Poll showed the Illinois senator with a 51-38 advantage over his Republican opponent. The same poll showed that Coleman was ahead of Franken by a 51-44 margin.

Keep a few things in mind. Public Opinion Strategies is a Republican firm that conducted the poll for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which will likely back Coleman. The sample was 350 registered likely voters, a smaller number than usual for such polls.

And it was conducted four weeks ago, a lifetime in a political season.

The POS poll, which has a 5.24 percent margin of error, does include a few interesting tidbits. According to the poll, Minnesota men are essentially split between Obama and McCain, while a majority of Minnesota women are solidly behind Obama. But many more independents said they’re backing McCain (46 percent) than Obama (24 percent).

According to the poll, Coleman’s support is across the board. He leads Franken in all regions of the state except Minneapolis-St. Paul, and he’s ahead among men, women and seniors.

Ms. Brod goes to Washington

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

State Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, who in recent weeks has publicly spearheaded Republican attacks on Al Franken, was in Washington today to call upon Senate Democrats to condemn Franken for his comedic musings on rape.

According to state Republican officials, Brod held a news conference this afternoon outside the headquarters of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and asked DSCC chair Charles Schumer, the New York senator, to condemn Franken’s 1995 remarks and terminate the committee’s support for the campaign.

The letter is signed by Brod, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former State Auditor Pat Anderson, party activist Mary Igo and GOP political analyst Annette Meeks.

Democrats recently criticized the McCain campaign for a fundraiser planned by Texas oilman Clayton Williams, who made a joke about rape during his 1990 gubernatorial campaign against Ann Richards. McCain later canceled the fundraiser.

During a brainstorming session with writers for Saturday Night Live in 1995, according to a book, Franken proposed a bizarre skit with “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney raping correspondents Lesley Stahl and Mike Wallace. Nothing came of the idea and the skit was never aired.

Addressed to Schumer, the letter expresses “dismay that you turn a blind eye to a man who thinks that the rape of women would be appropriate humor at any time or in any context. Why are Al Franken’s jokes about drugging and raping women acceptable to you?”

It concludes by asking that Schumer end the DSCC’s support for Franken, “whose vulgarity has gone beyond the bounds of decency.”

Local GOP spokeswoman Gina Countryman conceded that Brod could have delivered the same message without leaving town. But going to Washington, she said, helps ensure the letter “doesn’t end up in the circular file of the DSCC.”

Sign of the times

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008


So you’re a governor who has frequently been mentioned as being on the short list for the vice presidency. The price of gasoline is one of the key debates in the campaign. As part of your gubernatorial duties, you agree to help deliver a shipment of Coke products to a a Holiday store in Eagan, brought in a new hybrid electric truck. The store welcomes you with this sign: a good deal for Coke but not so much if you’re being reminded how much it is costing to fill your tank.


Raising a funds issue after Cheney fundraiser

Friday, June 20th, 2008

When Vice President Dick Cheney came to Orono last week for a Republican fundraiser, the city’s police department spent about $4,000 that hadn’t been in the budget.

Now, city officials want to be reimbursed.

“It’s not an outrageous amount of money, but we can’t require everyone in the city to pay for a private affair,” said Mayor Jim White. “You could even consider it a campaign contribution, and that’s just not appropriate.”

White wasn’t sure whether the bill has yet gone out to the unidentified homeowner who hosted the fundraiser but said he doesn’t expect to have a problem collecting the overtime charge.

During Cheney’s appearance on June 9, about 100 GOP supporters donated what a party spokeswoman described as “a six-figure take.”

Recouping the city’s cost was first suggested by Police Chief Correy Farnick, in part to plug a hole in the city’s budget but also in anticipation of a summer and fall that could produce a bumper crop of political fundraisers. “With the Republican convention coming to town, you can bet this will be just the first of many out here in the lakes area,” he said.

“It’s going to be a long summer,” White said. “It will be important to treat everyone the same. I don’t care if it’s the Green Party, the separatists, whoever.”

If the experience of cities who incurred unexpected costs during campaign events in the last presidential cycle are any indication, covering those costs may be easier said than done.

In 2004 in several cities nationwide, among them Duluth and Mankato, officials billed the Bush and Kerry campaigns for their costs, normally entailing security, but the campaigns’ payments were spotty or nonexistent.

Is he or isn’t he?

Friday, June 20th, 2008

There was a little extra bounce in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s step on Friday morning _ that is, until he saw a posse of reporters waiting to ambush him before he walked into the state Board of Investment meeting. Grinning, Pawlenty motioned a dive over the Capitol’s marble railing, signaling how far he would go to evade yet another veep question.
But in the end, he submitted, shedding little additional light but offering a very precisely worded answer on whether he is being vetted by the McCain campaign.
“Nobody has asked me for any information or to submit any information and I haven’t talked to Sen. McCain about it or anyone from his campaign about it,” Pawlenty said.
He said that he and the senator from Arizona did spend some private time together on Thursday and chatted about “sports, movies, politics and policy, family.”
Meanwhile, Pawlenty continues to get serious national buzz, with a New Republic writer dubbing him the “slam dunk” choice, while a U.S. News and World piece called him the “flavor of the week” for McCain’s folks. CBS News yesterday called Pawlenty a frontrunner for the spot.
More intrigue: Like Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Pawlenty now says he favors off-shore oil drilling, which is rapidly becoming part of the new Republican dogma on energy.
After ruminating, as he often does on policy questions, Pawlenty added through spokesman Brian McClung that he favored drilling in certain circumstances, chiefly, the agreement of the state whose coastline was involved.

After McCain

Friday, June 20th, 2008

It would be an understatement to say that Sen. McCain was well-received last night at the town hall meeting in St. Paul. Although many of those who attended the town hall meeting said they were undecided, it was obvious that most of the folks in the hall were at least favorably disposed toward the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. They weren’t disappointed.

“When you see him face-to-face, all the press reports that say he’s not conservative go by the wayside,” said Mark Swanson, a Medtronic engineer from Becker, Minn. “I don’t hear him being wishy-washy or doubtful … He impresses me very much as an idealist.”

Swanson was one of those who got the microphone last night and asked McCain, a fellow former naval officer, what he thought about U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s plan to reduce gas prices to $2 per gallon.

McCain raised his eyebrows in surprise and said, “I eagerly look forward to seeing that. I’ll try to read it tonight.”

It wasn’t entirely clear that he knew who Bachmann was, although he expressed his admiration for her. McCain is opposed to drilling in Alaska, one of the tenets of the Bachmann proposal. He said that in the end, the only way we can force down prices is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Swanson said that the town hall performance only deepened his admiration and support for McCain. “To me, he lives up to everything he says,” he said.

Some people clearly remained undecided, even if they were impressed with McCain’s performance. Don Dame, a mechanical engineer from Woodbury, told me that he was backing McCain despite their disagreement on global warming (McCain says human-influenced climate change is real; Dame says it’s part of the natural cycle). Obama, he said, doesn’t have enough experience to be president.

But Don told the Pioneer Press that he wasn’t sure he could support someone who opposed drilling in Alaska. “I guess I would like somebody to change McCain’s mind on the energy problem,” Dame told the Pioneer Press.

So Dame may have a ways to go before he can throw his whole-hearted support behind McCain, although his enthusiasm for him last night was apparent.

And then there were environmental lawyer Brian Davis and his daughter Jennifer May, a Forest Lake wife and mother who works in the disabilities field. Davis (not to be confused with the congressional candidate of the same name) went into the town hall meeting for McCain and had his opinion confirmed. “I’m even more engaged about his candidacy now,” he said.

But May is a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton during the primary season and isn’t sold on Barack Obama. Moreover, she agrees with McCain that U.S. troops should remain in Iraq until the country is capable of self-government. That position, she said with some understatement, “isn’t popular in my party.”

So she went to the town hall meeting last night hoping to find out more about McCain. Afterwards, she said she was still undecided but very impressed with McCain. She found him straightforward and sincere, and she liked what he said about the environment and the war.

“The intimacy of the setting allowed me to feel his energy and his passion,” she said. “I believe in his character and his integrity, and that’s huge for me.”

Sounds like John McCain is very much in the picture for Jennifer May.

The general and Al Franken

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman says the decision to withdraw troops in Iraq ought to be made by generals in the field, not politicians in Washington. But that’s not the way our system works, says Coleman’s DFL opponent Al Franken, who enlisted a retired brigadier general today to help make his point.

Gen. John Johns, a combat arms officer who was a counterinsurgency specialist during the Vietnam era, said it was the Bush administration that made the decision to invade Iraq and stay there to fight insurgents. Some generals approve of the war and some don’t, he said, but it doesn’t matter; to suggest that Washington went into Iraq on the advice of generals and was leaving war policy up them, Johns said, “is pure poppycock.”

In a conference call with Johns, Franken agreed. He said Coleman is “hiding behind talking points that just aren’t true.”

“He tells you he wants generals on the ground to make decisions about if and when we change course, as if it’s presumptuous for a senator from Minnesota to have an opinion about that,” Franken said. “In our country … the generals on the ground execute [the government’s] policy to the best of their considerable ability.”

In a statement, Coleman’s campaign responded: “Al Franken has called for cutting off funds for American soldiers on the front lines in Iraq. Senator Coleman knows it is better to listen to the recommendations of the commanders in the field, including those of General [David] Petraeus [head of U.S. forces in Iraq], than the partisan rhetoric of Al Franken.

“The White House and Congress make the final decisions about our nation’s military and foreign policy, but they do so with the input, knowledge and experience of the military professionals who serve our nation each and every day.“

Franken has said that funding for the war should be tied to withdrawal timetables.

In his conference call, Franken said that Iraqis won’t get serious about taking responsibility for their country until U.S. troops are withdrawn. That’s the only leverage we have, he said. “We have built a culture of dependency based on our presence there,” he said.

Johns also dismissed recent reports of a significant shift in fortunes in Iraq, saying that the same predictions of “light at the end of the tunnel” were heard constantly during the Vietnam War.

The general described himself as a political independent who supported John McCain for president in 2000 but is backing Barack Obama this year, based on Obama’s pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq in his first 18 months as president.

Bachmann: Oil drilling, environment can mix

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has joined the daily barrage of elected officials talking about ways to tackle rising gas prices. And it’s not just gas guzzlers who she says will benefit; Alaskan caribou could, too.

On the same day that President Bush voiced support for allowing offshore drilling and continued to push for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to help alleviate gas prices, Bachmann suggested that drilling in Alaska might be good for the environment.

“Some suggestions are that perhaps we would see an enhancement of wildlife expansion because of the warmth of the pipeline,” she said during her Wednesday appearance on WCCO-Radio’s “Jack Rice Show.”

Bachmann noted a caribou population increase, from 2,700 to 30,000, since the Trans Alaska Pipeline System from Prudhoe Bay was built in 1977.

The pipeline has now become a meeting ground and “coffee klatch” for the caribou, she said.

But the real message, she said, is that “degradation to the environment would be minimally invasive if we accessed the energy that we have here” in the U.S.

Bachmann’s push for drilling in Alaska is part of a larger Republican bill focused on opening up offshore oil as well as exploration in Western states to become less dependent on foreign oil.

Bachmann said moving forward quickly with this legislation could bring gas prices back to $2 a gallon or less in four years, but Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is preventing a vote on the bill. Democrats have said Republicans are simplifying a complex energy debate to appeal to cash-strapped voters.

To persuade Pelosi to change her mind, Bachmann is seeking to enlist her constituents. She said she wants Minnesotans to send their gas and energy bills to her and she will “put them in bushel baskets and deliver them” to Pelosi to prove how much Americans are paying for the spike in prices.

Pawlenty doesn’t expect to be asked

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

With John McCain on his way to the Twin Cities tomorrow, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been extra busy in recent days knocking down ever-rising speculation that he may be picked as McCain’s running mate.

This noon, after a speech to the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce at the Bearpath Country Club, Pawlenty was asked about any discussions of the vice presidential job he may have had with McCain.

Pawlenty said there have been no conversations of that kind. He added: “I’m honored to have my name mentioned. The fact is, I haven’t been asked, and I don’t expect to be asked.”

Apparently, though, the governor’s hosts have different expectations. Pawlenty’s questioner noted that the recorded music played when Pawlenty took the stage “sounded kind of presidential” and Pawlenty allowed it “sounded kind of weird.”

Turns out the event’s managers had selected the theme music to the Harrison Ford film “Air Force One.”

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