Matt Drudge has obtained the text of Walter Mondale’s first radio ad, which is just now hitting the airwaves. Mondale has lost no time in going negative; the ad attacks Norm Coleman for promoting free trade. The strange thing about this is that Mondale has spent most of the last eighteen years as a lawyer in private firms, specializing in international law. At Dorsey & Whitney, a Minneapolis law firm, his practice consisted largely of trying to facilitate international business transactions on behalf of American corporations. It is simply weird for him to morph suddenly into a protectionist. Nor does it seem like a particularly smart strategy. Talking about foreign steel competition may help shore up Mondale’s base on the heavily-Democratic Iron Range, but Coleman wasn’t going to get a lot of votes there anyway. On the other hand, the Americans most committed to free trade are farmers, who sell their grain everywhere–and need to, since they produce far more than Americans can consume. The biggest unknown in this race has always been how well Coleman will do in Minnesota’s rural areas; there are lots of Republican-leaning voters there, but they haven’t all jumped to support Coleman because of his urban background and image. Mondale’s attacking free trade may help to cement Coleman’s support among farmers and other residents of rural areas.
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