Al Franken's DFL Senate campaign plunked down $37,000 for a full-page ad in Friday's Star Tribune of Minneapolis that tries to link Senator Norm Coleman's voting record in the Senate to President Bush's unpopular Iraq war policy.
The high-profile attack is another sign that the political cycle is accelerating both in the race for Senate and president. Franken's campaign already has $2 million in the bank and Coleman has nearly twice that.
Above a picture of Bush and Coleman standing arm-in-arm, the ad features a recent comment by Coleman, R-Minn.: "We are going to be in Iraq a long time." Under the photo, the ad says, "Senator Norm Coleman stood with President Bush and voted against bringing our troops home. Again."
That was a reference to a vote this week in which Senate Republicans blocked a final vote on a Democratic bill to force the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.
The ad also includes this quote from Coleman: "When my colleagues on the other side of the aisle talk about redeployment, they are talking about getting out of Iraq. I'm not."
"You're wrong, Senator," the ad says. "Responsible, moderate Republican senators from Maine, Nebraska and Oregon put the interests of our country ahead of partisanship." GOP Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Gordon Smith of Oregon broke party lines this week on the legislation.
Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, said in a prepared statement, "It's no surprise that Al Franken's plan for Iraq comes in a full-page, partisan fundraising attack ad in the newspaper to raise money for his campaign."
While Coleman supports a changed mission in Iraq to ensure U.S. soldiers aren't caught in a battle between Iraqi factions, Sheehan said, "he believes allowing al-Qaida to create a terrorist state, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan, is unacceptable. Furthermore, we simply cannot let Iran continue to support terrorist elements that are destabilizing the region."
Sheehan added that Coleman believes there should be a significant drawdown of U.S. troops next year, but that still won't end America's responsibilities to Iraq or the region.
"When Al Franken chooses to ignore the recommendations of our generals who make it clear that a precipitous withdrawal of American troops will further destabilize the region and cause more pain and suffering, he chooses to engage in partisan politics," Sheehan said.
In a telephone interview, Sheehan said the campaign has no plans to run ads in the near future.
Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said the ad was the first significant one the campaign has done; to date, Franken has run a few radio ads to promote events. Barr suggested that the campaign will do more along the lines of Friday's ad.
"We'll definitely keep the heat on Senator Coleman," Barr said. "This is what the campaign will be about it. Norm Coleman's a really good politician. The way to beat him is to hold him accountable to his record. And you're going to have to be kind of tenacious about it. ... This is in not a one-time deal."
Joe Peschek, a political science professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, said the advertisement signaled a quickened pace for the campaign.
"The whole election cycle seems to be accelerating at the presidential level and the senatorial level here in Minnesota," he said. "This reflects the intensity of political divisions as we gear up for '08."
A spokeswoman for DFL Senate candidate Mike Ciresi said that Franken needs to clarify his position on the war.
"He was for the war, and he changed his position on the war," said the spokeswoman, Leslie Sandberg. "Mike has always opposed the war. His position is clear and detailed."
Barr responded: "Right now, we should all be devoting our energies to holding Norm Coleman accountable for his vote, and putting pressure on him to stop standing with the president so that we can start bringing our troops home."
By Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)