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Franken, Barkley gang up on ‘Sen. Nice’ in debate

A week ago, Norm Coleman tried to portray himself as Sen. Nice by announcing he was pulling all his negative ads.

So how’s that working out for him?

After the Republican senator recovers from the pounding he took in a debate Thursday night in Duluth, perhaps he’ll let us know.

When Coleman wasn’t taking punches from DFL challenger Al Franken, he was on the receiving end of haymakers from the Independence Party’s Dean Barkley.

“On your watch,” Barkley said to Coleman, “we’ve seen the greatest malfeasance in memory. If you were in Enron, you’d probably be indicted.”

Though Barkley reserved most of his deep contempt for Coleman, he did take some shots at both candidates.

Referring to the massive amounts of money that Franken and Coleman have received from special interest groups to mount their campaigns, Barkley had this to say:  “Bribing is illegal in this country except for members of Congress.”

When Barkley was resting, Franken fired away at Coleman, attacking him on the amounts he’s taken in contributions from the oil and drug industries. He also took an old shot at Coleman about the war in Iraq.

“It was a giant mistake, and Norm Coleman won’t admit it,” said Franken.

This time Coleman had a response to the oft-used Franken attack.

“We all want out (of Iraq),” Coleman said. “He keeps saying he wants me to say it is a mistake. One of the most challenging jobs I have is to meet with families. … I’m not going to tell the parents of  a kid who has died in Iraq that he died for a mistake.”

But even that comment couldn’t get the incumbent off the hook.

“We’ve lost enough,” said Barkley.

Coleman did try his old favorite political dance steps to try to avoid some of the hits.

He talked about “folks” on Main Street and “folks” on the farm and “folks” trying to put their kids through college. He understands the pain “folks” are feeling. When Coleman’s in campaign mode, there are no people in Minnesota. Just thousands of “folks.”

He returned to a favorite refrain about “working together to get things done.” Sometimes, in this Senate campaign, the three parties in this race seem to be the Democratic Party, the Independence Party and Coleman’s “working together” Bipartisan Party.

Coleman even tried to slip in a line about how nice he is for dropping negative ads.

“We’re not running negative ads,” said Coleman. “I think that’s a good start.”

He probably shouldn’t have tried to pat himself on the back, because both opponents leaped all over him. 

First, Franken: “They spent million of dollars on negative ads. They weren’t working. He stopped them.”

Then, Barkley: “I’d love to hear you apologize to the people for all those negative ads you did run.”

The candidates’ third meeting proved to be a long night for Sen. Nice. And there are two more debates to go.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ed Nelson on 10/17/2008 - 10:15 am.

    Can someone please explain to me what exactly Norm Coleman has done for Minnesotans?

    He said the following last night. “We have real problems out there, real challenges,” Norm Coleman said. “In the end it’s about who can work out there and who can solve it.”

    So just what exactly has Norm done for Minnesota??

    I don’t think any of us asked for triple the price of gas, 80% increases in our health care premiums, or 20% decreases in our home values, or 6.2% unemployment in Minnesota, or $700 billion of our tax paying dollars going to Iraq, or another $700 billion dollars of our tax paying dollars going to Wall Street.

    No I am certainly not going to reward Norm Coleman for this horrendous performance. Al has some good ideas for changing the course of this country and getting Minnesota back on track to bringing more jobs to our state and stopping the redistribution of wealth FROM the middle class into the pockets of the top 2%.

  2. Submitted by Dion Goldman on 10/17/2008 - 11:12 am.

    Dean Barkley clearly won this debate. The audience reaction to Norm(except for the workers they bused in) was very hostile. The Iron Range will go to Barkley on Nov. 4.

  3. Submitted by Randi Reitan on 10/17/2008 - 12:03 pm.

    I beg to differ with Diane … we were at the debate and we felt the audience rallying behind Al Franken. Al was very relaxed on stage and gave thoughtful, strong answers on every topic. We felt his real compassion for the people of Minnesota. As we waited in line to get into the debate, we had a chance to talk to a large number of people and they all were excited for Al Franken to bring the Senate seat back to the Democrats. Al’s daughter walked the line of people waiting to get in … thanking each of them for coming to the debate. It was a testimony to Franken’s loving family who is right there working alongside him in this race. Franni has been with Al every step of the way and Minnesota loves her too.

  4. Submitted by Laurie Zelesnikar on 10/17/2008 - 03:50 pm.

    Thank you Doug for calling out the overuse of the lazy, patronizing “folks” word. Makes me nuts. We are citizens or voters or Minnesotans, thanks very much.

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