In one of the most

In one of the most closely-watched Senate races, former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman is challenging Paul Wellstone, the Senate’s most liberal member. Wellstone is vulnerable not only because of his relatively extreme views, but also because, in seeking a third term, he is violating an oft-repeated term limits pledge. Wellstone’s health may also become a concern as the race progresses. On the other hand, Wellstone has always been personally popular in Minnesota. Coleman is a talented politician whose biggest problem has been his inability, so far, to connect strongly with rural voters. To date, Coleman has run a good-government campaign that most observers consider uninspiring. Nevertheless, he enjoys a four-point lead in the most recent poll. Rumor has it that Coleman’s campaign is about to get more aggressive. If he is able to pull ahead with a drab, “working together to get things done” theme, it seems likely that he can bury Wellstone if he emphasizes Wellstone’s longstanding anti-defense positions. To a greater degree than any of his fellow Senate Democrats, Wellstone’s record can fairly be interpreted as unpatriotic. This is not the year to be running on that kind of record; control of the Senate may turn on whether Coleman can aggressively remind the voters where Wellstone has stood on defense issues for the last twelve years.

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