Independent Threatens Franken, Coleman in Minn.

Monday, 22 Sep 2008 02:00 PM

By Jim Meyers

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The late entry of third-party candidate Dean Barkley has shaken up the Senate race in Minnesota and cut into the support of incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken.

Barkley, the founder of the Minnesota Independence Party, masterminded former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura’s successful run for Minnesota governor in 1998. After Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash on Oct. 25, 2002, Ventura appointed Barkley to serve out the final two months of Wellstone’s term.

Now Barkley is seeking the Senate again, and polls show that he has as much as 14 percent support among likely voters, according to the Wall Street Journal, which observes that his surprising showing points to voter dissatisfaction with the state’s two top candidates.

“Voters are sick of the nasty ads,” Barkley told The Journal. “In a two-person race you can probably get away with it, but with a third viable alternative, there’s a place to go. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, you don’t have to put up with it.”

A recent poll conducted by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune found that since May, the number of respondents viewing Coleman unfavorably has risen from 33 percent to 45 percent, while Franken’s unfavorable marks have gone from 39 percent to 46 percent.

Franken spokeswoman Colleen Murray asserted that Barkley is gaining support from both Democrats and Republicans.

But Coleman spokesman Mark Drake said: “Dean Barkley is benefiting from Democrats fleeing Al Franken in droves.”

And pollster Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said Barkley “is competing with Franken for the angry voter who disapproves of Bush and sees the country as off on the wrong track.”

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