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Political insiders and insights

From time to time, I’ll bring you behind-the-scenes information about the movers and shakers of the political world in Minnesota. If you have information, please email me at bolson [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Minnesotans playing nationally
There are quite a few folks nationally with Minnesota connections playing a significant role in the presidential campaign:

John McCormick, Roseville native and former Rochester Post-Bulletin scribe, has been the Chicago Tribune’s main Obama reporter for the past 18 months. McCormick recently made it home for the State Fair. If he would have missed it, it would have been the first time in his life.

Alex Conant, Sunfish Lake native and former Midwest press desk manager in the White House for Bush, is now the spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and has the job of taking some of the more pointed and snarky jabs at Obama and Democrats.

Paul Tewes, a Macalaster College grad who dabbled in Minnesota politics running state Sen. Sandy Pappas’ 1997 mayoral race, is the shining star who is credited with Obama’s Iowa caucus victory and now serves as the general election director for the campaign. He’s so popular he was recently a draw for the campaign at an Iowa fundraiser.

Steve Hildebrand, a former Humphrey staffer who has been a notable Democratic operative on the national stage for some time, is deputy campaign manager for Obama. He and Tewes are partners in what is sure to become the hottest Democratic consulting firm of the next generation. Their headquarters? Not D.C., but Sioux Falls, SD.

Paulsen and Madia launch new ads
After last week’s post about Ashwin Madia and the clear momentum he has in the ad war with GOP opponent Erik Paulsen, Madia launched his third ad and Paulsen his second. 

Madia’s ad is an expanded profile piece from the media firm Penn/Putnam. It includes plenty of imagery of kids and church and soldiers. Madia’s campaign is clearly conscious of his youth and bachelor status.

Paulsen’s second ad begins by going after Madia on taxes. Using video of Madia saying that we need to “look at increasing the capital gains tax,” Paulsen relates that to higher taxes on small business, families and seniors. Paulsen continues to look more simplistic in his ads, which could be an effective tactic in a year when voters may be looking for more basic candidates. The issue of taxes is likely one that moves voters in the Third District, but at this point in the campaign Paulsen needs to be better defined — and it seems he didn’t get in many days of positive ads before he went on the attack. Here is the ad.

Trade mission or avoiding the debate?
Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s last-minute announcement that he is headed to Spain and the United Kingdom for a trade mission is likely to fuel more speculation that he is out of graces with the McCain-Palin campaign. As the campaign co-chair, perhaps he is working to try to secure confidence with two partners during the economic crisis, but with a month left in the campaign it seems like too important of a time for such a high-level surrogate to be out of the country. Don’t forget the vice-presidential debate is tonight, a time the McCain campaign may not want Pawlenty accessible to the media if Palin has a rough night.

Rites of passage at the AP Capitol
Although they spend most days covering the news, the Associated Press Capitol team of Martiga Lohn and Brian Bakst had some big news of their own in recent weeks. Martiga got engaged, and Brian and his wife announced the arrival of their first child, daughter Audrey, who was born Aug. 26. Congrats to everyone. 

Al squared
The DFL will host its Founders Day event Saturday and the special guest will be Al Gore. The event is being billed as “The Two Al’s.” One might bet that there will be a certain Paul Simon song blaring. Tickets range from $25 to $500. For more information, go here or call the DFL at 651-293-1200. 

Movers moves
Dan Cramer, long-time mastermind of Democratic grassroots activities and founder of Grassroots Solutions, has moved over to the Franken campaign in a full-time capacity. Cramer will bring a great deal of historical knowledge and maturity to the team.

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