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article imageFranken-Coleman Debate: Sunday Night Live, Tuesday Night Reckoning

By Stephen Dohnberg     Oct 6, 2008 in Politics
Sun. night Senate candidate Al Franken (DFL), boosted by recent poll numbers & a previous day campaigning w/ fmr VP Al Gore, faced off against incumbent Sen Coleman (R) and Dean Barkley (Ind).Gore emphasized the Nov. 4 election will be one of "reckoning".
Rochester,MN - Incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman faced SNL alum, Air America broadcaster, and DFL challenger Al Franken and Independence Party candidate met at the end of a week that saw Franken polling ahead of Coleman in a solid 43-34 percent lead. Barkley makes up the rear with 18 percent. The poll of 1,084 likely voters conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, was released by the Star Minnesota Tribune Poll.
Coleman found himself on the defence for much of Sunday's debate, the first of five scheduled meetings in one of this election cycle's most-watched, and most expensive Senate races.
Coleman and Franken traded barbs, with Barkley occasionally joining in to criticise Coleman on his continued support of the war in Iraq. Other issues such as the $700 billion bailout bill, education, and questionable ads run by the Coleman campaign were discussed.
The Coleman v Franken ads in particular, have drawn a lot of attention from state and national media for both the content and the growing cost of the campaign. During the course of the campaign, Coleman has questioned the tastefulness of the context and nature of Franken's satire and during the debate attacked the negative tone of the ads.
"Yes I am angry, but being angry doesn't solve problems," Coleman said. "Anger for anger's sake doesn't solve anything. It doesn't solve problems."
Franken, however, shot back that "they have put out some pretty nasty personal ads against me, and people have said to me, 'Well, how can you take it?' claiming that the Coleman campaign fired the first round. Justifying his own TV retorts, Franken reasoned "You know, part of an election is holding an incumbent accountable, holding an elected official accountable. We've been running ads about Norm Coleman's record, and so it's a lot of negative, because his record hasn't been very good."
There were brief team-ups on Coleman by Franken and Barkley on the topic of Coleman's support for the Iraq War. Although Barkley indicated he would have cautiously supported the $700 billion bailout package, Barkley noted that the Iraq War has made the U.S. economy more vulnerable and has destabilized an already volatile region. Scoring his own jabs against Coleman, Barkley said support for the war was Coleman's "first-trillion dollar mistake," adding that the "second was his failure to watch over the financial industry. That's your second-trillion dollar mistake. How many more trillion-dollar mistakes do we have to put up with?"
Coleman is fighting to retain a second term, while Democrats are hoping to add Minnesota to the win column by having Franken join Sen. Amy Klobuchar in Washington. Campaign fund raising had topped $22 million by June 30, with Coleman and Franken almost evenly matched in fund raising strength at $11,121,028 and Franken at $11,693,108 according to figures.
Barkley, a lawyer, is also no stranger to the political arena. He served as chair for Jesse Ventura's successful race for Governor, briefly consulted for Arianna Huffington during the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall Election, and served as Kinky Friedman's campaign manager for the 2006 Texas Gubernatorial campaign. In 1994 and 1996 Barkley ran for U.S. Senate in Minnesota and 1992 saw him run for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.
Barkley was also assigned by Ventura to serve in Sen. Paul Wellstone's staid after Wellstone's tragic death.
Although Coleman enjoyed a bounce in the polls that accompanied his role as a keynote speaker and host for the Republican National Convention from Sept.1-4, Franken enjoyed a Saturday campaign visit by former Vice President Al Gore at University of Minnesota's Northrop Arena.
This is a move that could be interpreted as a clear indication that the Democrats view Franken's chances as favourable in their prospects to pick up another Senate seat.
Gore, addressing the 1,500 strong crowd that included former VP and 1984 Democratic Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Congressmen Keith Ellison, Tim Walz, Gore also took the opportunity to support candidates in three other congressional races.
Gore delivered a fiery speech indicting the Bush Administration on torture, war, climate change, corporate favouritism, deficits, and America's standing in the world. “I've gotten to the point, when a new outrage comes along, I've got to download some existing outrage to make room for the new outrage,” he declared.
But he was there to stump for Franken, who introduced Gore as “the greatest president we should have had.”
"You win by outworking the other guy. On Jan. 20, 2009, George W. Bush leaves office. What happens next is up to us.” Franken directed.
Echoing the afternoon's theme of party activism, Gore said of Franken that during the race of 2000, "there was nobody who did more for me and I know his capacity for hard work and I really respect him a lot."
Speaking with a sense of urgency on national matters, Gore conceded the political-speak in campaigns, noting that "you’ll often hear 'this election is the most important election'. Sometimes it’s a stretch. This is one of those times that it is dead on true. This election is really fateful for our country."
Gore repeated his belief in the gravity of this election, using rhetoric to make the point that "if this record on the war, on torture on mass wire-tapping without warrants, on financial mismanagement of a scale that’s unprecedented in the whole history of our country, of wrecking the economy, of ignoring the environment, of actively choosing the interest of these special interests over the interests of the people, if this record were to be rewarded rather than used as a basis for a clear and decisive choice to go in new direction, what would it say about the vitality of our democracy?"
“Thirty-one days and a few hours from now, we have to have a reckoning.”
"Ladies and Gentlemen, now is the time for change if we’ve ever had a time for change. Now is the time and let’s do it by electing Al Franken to the United States Senate."
Norm Coleman holds court with media at the RNC
Norm Coleman holds court with media at the RNC outside the XCel Center, St. Paul, MN
Stephen Dohnberg
A replay of the full debate can be viewed at
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