We’ve posted a lot on the Minnesota Senate race over the last two days, and I thought it might be helpful to try to synthesize where we think things currently stand. The most fundamental point is this: The Democrats had hoped that there would be no campaign following Wellstone’s death; that six quiet days would pass by without controversy, and that Walter Mondale would then be crowned Senator. This morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune warned the Republicans strongly against campaigning against Mondale. The same paper helpfully offered up a poll intended to show that Mondale has the race in the bag, so there is no need for a campaign. Now, this plan may never have worked in any event, but it was blown sky-high by last night’s fiasco. A huge backlash against the Wellstone rally is in progress. Governor Ventura has blasted the Democrats harshly, as have various media figures in the Twin Cities. A local TV station has planned a debate for Friday night, and has announced that either Mondale will appear, or he will be represented by an empty chair and Coleman will have the time to himself. Meanwhile, Tim Russert has offered to come to Minneapolis on Saturday to moderate a debate. It should now be impossible for the Democrats to avoid one or more debates. The legitimate polls show the race to be a virtual dead heat, prior to last night’s disaster. The Democrats have stumbled badly and are now engaged in damage control, trying to apologize for the rally. But the significant fact is that if they ever could have finessed the election and slipped it past the voters without a real campaign, that is impossible now. The Democrats are beginning with an even start, and are in for a tough six days.
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