Former US Senator Norm Coleman
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Now that Norm Coleman has opted against seeking the state's top job, Republican activists have some big decisions of their own to make. Precinct caucuses, with the first statewide straw poll of potential state convention delegates, are just two weeks away.
"Now that Coleman has taken himself off the table we should expect to see a lot of sorting out of the remaining candidates in the next two to three weeks," political analyst David Schultz of Hamline University told KARE, "There will be a reshuffling of the deck and more Republican candidates will be dropping from the race."
Coleman ended months of speculation late Sunday night when he posted a message on his Facebook page, explaining that the timing's not right for another rigorous campaign. The former US Senator narrowly lost his bid for a second term, in the tightest and most expensive senate election in state history.
Coleman conceded to Democrat Al Franken nearly eight months after Election Day, following a protracted legal battle over a mandatory recount that gave Franken the victory. In the wake of that loss Coleman found himself seriously considering a bid to replace Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is not seeking a third term.
"I believe I would've had the energy," Coleman told reporters Monday in Minneapolis, "But I think it was too soon after the last election and too late for me to kind of really get going and do what I had to do."
Coleman was outpolling other Republicans by solid margins, even though he hadn't formally joined the 2010 race. And he was confident he would've prevailed in November. What he hadn't had time to do was court delegates the old-fashioned way.
"I had to work the process. I had to meet the delegates, to pay them respect. And I couldn't do that," Coleman told KARE, "If I couldn't do that, and I couldn't do what I needed to be doing for my family, then I shouldn't be running for governor."
Coming into focus
Other GOP candidates welcomed the news, and thanked Coleman for his years of service to Minnesota.
"It certainly brings clarity to the race, which I think a lot of us were looking for," Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall told KARE Monday, "Whether you get in or get out is one thing, but it's good just to have the clarity of how many candidates we have now. And I think it puts the focus on the precinct caucuses on February 2nd."
Seifert and a fellow House member, Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano, have performed well in county straw polls of announced candidates. State Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie and Bill Haas, the former mayor of Champlin, are also still in the delegate hunt.
Pat Anderson, the former state auditor, switched to the auditor's race one week ago citing the Coleman factor. She said potential donors and supporters were holding off making commitments until they knew what Coleman would do.
On the face of it, Schultz said, the Democrat Farmer Laborer party will benefit from a weakened field of GOP candidates who lack the statewide name recognition of Coleman.
"It's still significant for the Republicans because he was clearly the biggest name out there, and probably had the best chance of attracting national money," Schultz said.
But he said it's also the first time in years the DFL won't have a lightning rod of the caliber of Coleman or Pawlenty to motivate liberal voters and donors.
"Because Norm Coleman was such a well-known candidate, this actually would've helped Democrats in terms of their own fundraising, in terms of attracting national money, to try to defeat him."
The former Saint Paul mayor is days away from launching a new public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., where he still works several days each week. He said his new institute will help center-right Republican candidates articulate "what they stand for" on a variety of vital issues.
It was also a steady job that will help Coleman, who has a son at the University of Minnesota law school and a daughter at Notre Dame, pay the bills better than he could in the midst of a statewide campaign for governor.
"I've got to take care of my family. I've got obligations to them," Coleman explained, "I can't say 'Okay folks, tighten your belt. Dad's going to quit work tomorrow and run for governor for 10 months.' It doesn't work that way."
(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)