Friday, Oct. 31 at noon ET

Election 2008 Key States: Minnesota

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Eric Black
Political Reporter, Minnesota Post
Friday, October 31, 2008; 12:00 PM

Minnesota Post political reporter Eric Black will be online Thursday, Oct. 30 at noon ET to break down the state of the presidential, U.S. Senate and competitive U.S. House races in Minnesota.

Also this week: More discussions on key states

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

____________________

Eric Black: Hello, I'm Eric Black of Minnpost.com and long-time political reporter in Minnesota. What can I tell you?

_______________________

Harrisburg, Pa.: How popular was Jesse Ventura at the end of his term as governor, and how popular is he now? How do Minnesota viewers regard his service as governor, in retrospect?

Eric Black: Not very popular at the end of his term and not very popular now. A lot of Minnesotans ending feeling embarrassed by his antics and I don't believe he would have been reelected. On substance, his term had several impressive accomplishments. But his obnoxious personality got in the way. Nonetheless, in Minnesota's unusual tripartisan system, and given the high negatives of both Al Franken and Norm Coleman, if Ventura had run for Senate this year, he might have been a very serious contender. In a three-way race, you can have 50 percent-plus negatives and still win.

_______________________

New York: Bachman, Franken, Coleman ... you guys are totally out of hand up there in the land of Nice. Is this the wackiest election season you can remember? As a New Yorker, I feel cheated. Maybe we need to bring Spitzer back.

Eric Black: Very wacky, very tacky. It's strange to have a field in which there are no really well-liked candidates. For for strangeness, even Minnesota has produced many contenders. We had, of course, Sen. Wellstone die two weeks before the last election and all the strangeness that followed that. A few cycles back, the Republican nominee for governor withdrew close to the election after allegations of swimming topless with his teenage daughters friends. We'll have to wait for some perspective to decide what's weirdest.

_______________________

Washington: With Minnesota unlikely to be a presidential swing states, what sort of help are Franken and the Democratic congressional candidates getting from appearances by Obama, Biden or other major surrogates? Any word about last-minute appearances? When I was in college, the Monday before Election Day in 1980 Ronald Reagan came into New Haven, Conn., to try to push the Republican candidate for the open congressional seat over the top. It worked, switching a Democratic seat to Rrepublican (the Democrat happened to be Joe Lieberman). With Franken as a potential 59th or 60th vote, you'd think this would be more important than the difference between an electoral vote of 364 or 375.

Eric Black: We had Bill Clinton here last night for Franken. Coleman is getting major help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which sees his election as crucial to get the Repubs to at least a filibusterable 41 in the Senate. They are mostly focused on the EFCA/Card Check issue. I don't guess Coleman wants help from anyone associated with McCain. There's also a late-breaking story alleging that Coleman received improper income through a wealthy supporter. Too soon to say whether that is influencing the race.

_______________________

Native Minnesotan: Has Al Franken resorted to being funny at all yet in the campaign? Being funny got Jesse Ventura elected.

Eric Black: Franken is occasionally very slightly funny of late. But, for obvious reasons, he is being very careful about jokes. I attended one of his house parties a while back and during his remarks, he made an only slightly racy remark, then looked right at me and said "and please don't report that. I've got enough problems."

_______________________

Reading, Pa.: Eric, it sounds like you folks have quite a choice with Coleman and Franken. Franken has no experience in government and is no doubt hindered by his past as a satirist, so I'm wondering why the third-party candidate isn't picking up more steam.

Eric Black: This is a great opportunity for a third-party candidate and under Minnesota law, the Independence Party has "major party" status and a bit of infrastructure. But IP nominee Dean Barkley has stagnated in the mid-to-high teens for weeks now and it is probably too late for him to become a more serious contender. He has not run a strong campaign, has no money, only just started airing his first tv ad. He needed to break through during the televised debates and didn't get it done.

_______________________

Baltimore: Any suggestion from the McCain camp that they regret not picking Gov. Pawlenty? I assume he could have delivered Minnesota and helped in Wisconsin/Michigan, and also rallied the opposition against Franken. Unrelated -- where is Jesse Ventura these days?

Eric Black: I think Pawlenty would have helped the ticket more and have written that. But no suggestion from Team McCain to that effect. Ventura divides his time between Minnesota and his surfer home in Mexico. One of the biggest reasons he didn't enter the Senate race this year was that doesn't want to give up his surfer life. When he is in Minnesota, he generally keeps a low profile.

_______________________

Raleigh, N.C.: Good morning. Did Al Franken debate Norm Coleman? What was Mr. Franken's debate personna like? Glib, serious?

Eric Black: Yes, there have been four debates with one more on Sunday. None of them have big game changers. As I mentioned a moment ago, those were the main opportunity for IP nominee Dean Barkley (and he was included in all debates) to break through, so the biggest impact is that he didn't get that done. Franken's debate personna has worked for his special needs. Aggressive but not too obnoxious. Mildly funny but no risky jokes. It becomes an opportunity for him to demonstrate mastrey of policy details and I would say he got that done.

_______________________

Bachmann: Is she really that out in left feild? If so, how did she get elected in the first place? Also, what are her chances now that she has exposed herself as a loon?

Eric Black: You mean right field. She is a total and fairly extreme conservative in all areas, fiscal, social and foreign policy. During her days in the state Senate, she was best known for bashing gay marriage. She has a devoted following in the churches. She is not a big political talent and has a tendency to commit big gaffes. I covered the 06 race in which she was first elected to Congress. Won fairly easily. The Dem nominee was a beloved figure but a weak candidate. The district went for Bush by something like 15 points. She was considered a sure thing for reelection this year until her Hardball disaster. I wouldn't count her out this round but public polls show her trailing within the margin.

_______________________

New York: As an Indian-American, I always am excited and proud when members of my community get involved in American politics. I know that Ashwin Madia is running for Congress this year. What do the polls indicate about his race? Does he have a chance? Thanks for taking my question.

Eric Black: Madia definitely has a chance. Most public polls show him leading slightly, within the margin. Coming from nowhere, it's pretty amazing that he finds himself in this position in a district that has been Repub for decades. I generally expect that the superior Dem ground game and Obama enthusiasm will help Dems in close races like this one, don't you?

_______________________

Crestwood, N.Y.: Is the latest revelation/claim about the money paid to Coleman's wife, and the on-again-off-again lawsuit against Franken having any effect? Who exactly is this guy doling out the money and renting the apartment to Coleman?

Eric Black: Nasser Kazeminy is a super-wealthy Iranian immigrant who has supported Coleman. Coleman portrays the relationship as one of personal friendship. Can't say yet what effect these stories are having. The evidence that this alleged scheme is funneling money into the Coleman family's pockets so far rest entirely on the statement of the guy filing the lawsuit, although it was a sworn statement.

_______________________

Bremerton, Wash.: What's Eleanor Mondale up to these days? Has she ever thought of following her father's footsteps?

Eric Black: Eleanor has a radio talk show. She has been fighting cancer, so far, thankfully, successfully. She has no political aspirations of her own. Her brother Ted Mondale is the politician in the next generation. Has been a state Sen and has sought statewide office, so far without success. Vice President Mondale is one of the classiest and most decent guys I've ever met.

_______________________

New York: What are the main sources of Franken's high negatives? It just can't be the nasty jokes or the tax thing; after all, Americans never took it out on Reagan for smacking Angie Dickinson in the face in one of his later movies. Do they see Franken as a carpetbagger?

Eric Black: I'm afraid the Reagan analogy doesn't apply very well. Franken's brand of humor, while successful for his show biz career, has several aspects that make the transition to Senate candidate awkward. Extreme foul language, very aggressive tone, straying into very racy topics. And until he got that aspect of his personality under control, he came across to many as obnoxious earlier in the campaign.

_______________________

Minneapolis: Eric, good to see you here -- what a pleasant surprise. Do you see any chance for Barkley's new ad to break through the significant noise already on the airwaves? It seems to me that he has squandered a golden opportunity to challenge two candidates who don't inspire much enthusiasm in the electorate. Barkley seems like the third leg of a boring stool. Will the Minnesota electorate surprise us (this Minnesota voter included)?

Eric Black: I'd be very surprised if the new ad changes the race. Barkley has missed his opportunities, which were mostly in the debates. I'm not that taken with the ad myself and, as you suggest, it's hard to break through the clutter now.

_______________________

Philadelphia: This helped elect Nixon in 1968, so let me ask: If John McCain goes on "Saturday Night Live" and says "sock it to me," will that help him carry Minnesota?

Eric Black: No. But maybe if he could get on "laugh-in."

_______________________

Berks County, Pa.: Eric, doesn't Pawlenty have enough problems of his own, with reports that some bridges weren't maintained properly leading to several deaths? Is this an issue with traction?

Eric Black: Pawlenty seems not to have suffered much political damage from the bridge. He has high approval ratings. He was perceived as doing everything right after the bridge fell (the new bridge is built and open by the way)and the investigations of the cause of the collapse have not pointed to anything he could reasonably have done about it. He remains personally popular but with the Dems surging in every other area, he faces tough sledding on any legislative agenda moving forward. I epxect him to at least explore a presidential run.

_______________________

Minneapolis: I see lots of Senate questions. Are there any suprises lurking in House races? Rep. Bachmann effectively appears to have eliminated herself; can you comment on that race, Minnesota's 3rd District and whether Kline is really at risk in the 2nd District?

Eric Black: Democrats Ashwin Madia in the third district and Elwyn Tinklenberg in the sixth both have serious shots at winning, both of which would be Dem pickups. Kline's challenger, Steve Sarvi is a significantly longer shot. If he wins it will means the Dem tsunami crested very high. But if the other two races go Dem, Minnesota will have delegation of 7 Dems and Kline. Heading into 06, we had a 4-4 split. Big change.

_______________________

Anonymous: Does Franken's religious beliefs come into play? What are Minnesota's demographics regarding religious belief?

Eric Black: If by religious belief, you mean the fact that he is Jewish, there are these very odd facts. Coleman is also Jewish. Wellstone was Jewish. His predecessor Rudy Boschwitz is Jewish. The Jewish population of Minnesota is roughly one percent.

_______________________

Atlanta: "I covered the 2006 race in which she was first elected to Congress. Won fairly easily." The 2007 congressional directory has her winning with 50 percent. Are you misremembering, or was it a three-way race?

Eric Black: Three way race. She beat the Democrat 50-42. The IP candidate got eight. But the IP has endorsed her opponent this time.

_______________________

Evanston, Ill.: Who has the better ground game among the Senate aspirants?

Eric Black: I would bet on Franken getting more benefit from ground game mostly because of the ability to coordinate with the Obama turnout machine. Obama's Minn coordinator is Wellstone's political Jeff Blodgett. Grass roots is huge for them. The Kerry turnout operation in '04 was considered the best in the country.

_______________________

Former Minnesotan: I haven't lived in Minnesota for 26 years. Does this mean I can come back and run for Senate? I think it's astounding the Democratic-Farmer-Labor didn't have a real native candidate available and chose Franken.

Eric Black: Sure, c'mon back and run. Franken's carpetbagger issue is not so unusual. What's more surprising, especially considering the negative baggage that everyone knew Franken brought into the race, is that he didn't get more serious competition for the DFL nomination. DFLers have been complaining for years that they have a "weak bench." Word is, there's some significant younger talent on the way up.

_______________________

Northville, N.Y.: Coleman is extremely fortunate that Iraq has been forgotten as an issue because of the surge, the stand-down by the Sunnis and the financial meltdown, or he would be toast. They would have been playing that embarrassing de-pantsing he got in the Senate at the hands of that British raidcal George Galloway on a continuous loop. As it is now, he's got at least an even chance to win.

Eric Black: I must disagree. The switch to the economy as the number one issue has helped Franken and hurt Coleman as it has helped most Dems and hurt most Repubs.

_______________________

New York: Why does someone with such fringe ideas like Bachmann go on a show like "Hardball"? Is national exposure, even on a left-leaning show, too hard to pass up? Sometimes becoming a national figure is not a good thing.

Eric Black: It was a huge blunder. In one of her interviews after she stepped in the poo, Bachmann said she was unfamilar with the show and didn't know what she was getting herself into. Can that be true? Anyway, a better politician could easily have escaped when Mathews asked her whether she was alleging anti-Americanness. Bachmann's been a regular lately on Larry King (where the questions are easier). But she's trying to be more careful now.

_______________________

Yonkers, N.Y.: What's the status of the Coleman lawsuit against Franken? This is the one where he objects to being called the fourth most corrupt Senator. Who were one through three? Did Stevens make the cut?

Eric Black: Colemann's campaign announced yesterday they would file the suit. Don't know if they have yet. It is getting drowned out by the suit against Coleman.

_______________________

St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Eric -- glad to see you hosting this chat. I really have appreciated your excellent writing and insight over the years. Even though it has been six years now, my sense is that a lot of Minnesotans are not really "over" the loss of Wellstone, and there's a feeling that Coleman "stole" his seat and would not have won had it not been for the infamous memorial service that was seen widely as a campaign rally (I was there and didn't think it was that bad, but there you go). What are you thoughts?

Eric Black: What you say is true for some voters. They will never forgive Coleman for replacing Wellstone. Franken may be in this group. He regularly brings up the fact that Coleman once said he was a 99 percent improvement over Wellstone. But voters who feel that way probably wouldn't have voted for Coleman anyway.

_______________________

Pennsylvania: How do Minnesotans feel about Sarah Palin's faux Minnesota accent?

Eric Black: Minnesotans believe in absolute freedom of accent as guaranteed by the first amendment.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: So, is Minnesota the real America? Or would the real America only exist outside the Twin Cities?

Eric Black: My latest information is that alexandria, Virginia is the real america.

_______________________

Anonymous: You mention Paul Wellstone, and I recall how his accidental death caused the Senate to fall into an even split. My question is, was there a thorough investigation into that tragic plane crash? What were the findings?

Eric Black: Basically, pilot error. There are still conspiracy theories floating around but I have no basis to credit them. It was a terrible tragedy.

_______________________

Maplewood, N.J.: What is it about Minnesota -- the well-educated, solid, sensible state -- that always finds a place for weird (and sensible) third-party politicians? Are the rest of us just missing something? (Not that we need a Jesse Ventura to make New Jersey weird).

Eric Black: Personally, I'd be happy to see the rise of credible third parties. Minnesota's election law is fairly friendly. The IP (the Ventura/Barkley party) has to get five percent in at least one statewide race (it can be for auditor) at least once every four years to maintain its legal status as a major party, which gets them automatic ballot access. Minnesota cities are also trying to experiment with Instant Runoff Voting, which also will advantage third parties.

_______________________

Minneapolis: Coleman is a very skilled politician, but many people in Minnesota think he's got a lot more skeletons in his closet besides Kazeminy's suits and his payoff. Is more going to come out before the election, do you think?

Eric Black: We'll see.

_______________________

Eric Black: Thanks everyone. I enjoyed it. Back to work for me. You?

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Upcoming Discussion: Rules and Expectations for Voting on Election Day (washingtonpost.com, 2 p.m. ET today)

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity