Tags: Bush | Barnstorms | Midwest

Bush Barnstorms Midwest

Sunday, 03 November 2002 12:00 AM

In the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the prize is the Senate seat of Democrat Paul Wellstone, killed in a plane crash last month.

Latest public opinion polls show the Republican candidate, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, in what amounts to a statistical dead heat against the man chosen by Democrats last week to take Wellstone's place on the ballot - former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale, who came out of an 18-year retirement to carry the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party banner.

Coleman, since Mondale's entry into the race, is campaigning hard as a candidate with a modern and forward-looking agenda, not a politician from the past.

Any initial dip Coleman suffered following the death of Wellstone has apparently dissipated, according to a poll for the local media.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Television poll statewide of 625 likely voters on Oct. 30-Nov. 1, showed Coleman leading Mondale by 6 points - 47 percent to 41 percent, with 10 percent of voters undecided. With a plus/minus margin of error of 4 percent, the poll literally puts the two neck-and-neck

A poll by the Minneapolis Star Tribune of 600 likely voters, taken last Wednesday through Friday, shows the numbers reversed - 46 percent for Mondale, 41 percent for Coleman. The margin of error was 3.2 percent, again making the race simply too close to call.

A senior administration official, speaking to reporters on Air Force One Sunday, said the outcome of Nov. 5 - whether the GOP regains control of the Senate and keeps a narrow majority in the House - is going to be a tight-run affair.

Bush's role, he said, was to spotlight the candidates in a way they would not normally be afforded, by coupling them with the president's national agenda.

"I think the biggest advantage that he (Bush) has is helping to frame a -- to the degree that it's important in races, and it varies -- importance of it varies from race to race -- he helps frame the issue agenda," he said.

"So this allows these candidates to be showcased in a way they might (not) otherwise get to be showcased.

"But I will repeat, this is going to be settled by a relatively small number of votes, potentially, and a relatively small number of contests in both the House and the Senate. And it's going to be a close election."

In mid-term elections in a president's first term, the historic precedent is for his party to suffer reversals at the hands of the public.

In this election, the GOP may defy precedent by keeping their razor-slim majority in the House, where all 435 seats are up for grabs. Gaining control of the Senate - in which the Democrats have a one-seat majority - would be a startling upset the president and his advisers clearly would relish. With Democrats in the lead in the Senate, nearly all the president's legislative proposals have failed to move forward.

In his campaign stump speeches, Bush notes the stalemate in the Senate on legislation for creation of a Homeland Security Department, legislation for prescription drugs for seniors, anti-terrorism insurance, which would breath new life into the commercial construction industry, and the hold up on the confirmation of his nominees to federal benches.

"If the Republicans keep the House of Representatives, it would be a pretty extraordinary accomplishment. If they lose less than five seats in the House, it will be the first time since 1962 that that's happened. It will be the best performance since Kennedy's performance in the off-year election in '62. If Republicans pick up seats in the House, it will be the first time since 1932 that that's happened in the first off-year election of a President's term," the senior adviser said.

Besides the 34 Senate seats up for grabs, are 36 governorships.

Traveling to Minnesota from Tampa, where he shared the stage Saturday night with his brother Jeb, running for re-election as governor, Bush stopped in Springfield, Ill., home of Abraham Lincoln.

In a stump speech he bannered his administration's agenda, the attributes of the Republican candidates in the state, and his need for political allies in Washington.

The rally was held in the Springfield Police Armory, a block-long building on Madison and 2nd Streets.

While the president rocked the crowds with his now-familiar stump remarks, a small group of between 60-70 people stood on a nearby street corner, holding signs protesting a possible war with Iraq.

"No War," one said. "Mr. President, Create Peace Now," said another.

"I'm here because I'm totally opposed to a war against Iraq," Susan Faupel, a 46-year-old social worker, told UPI.

"I'm totally against using terror to stop terror and that's what we are going to do." Iraq is a regular feature in Bush's addresses, in which he repeats the threat Iraq and its suspected weapons of mass destruction pose, the challenge he issued to the United Nations, and his resolve to disarm Saddam Hussein if the United Nations fails to "get the backbone" to act to enforce its disarmament resolutions.

At St. Paul' Excel Center, home of the city's professional hockey team, as many as 10,000 gathered to hear the president and see a tangible sign of his support for Coleman.

The demonstrators were there also. About 100-150, chanting "give peace a chance" on a nearby street corner, ignored by the Republican faithful Bush was exhorting to not only go out and vote, but to collar Democrats and independents and convince them of the wisdom of casting their ballot for Coleman and others.

Following his appearance in St. Paul, Bush was flying to South Dakota, where he would meet up with his wife, Laura, who was already in the state campaigning for John Thune, a three-term congressmen Bush hopes will unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, a protégé of Tom Daschle, the state's senior Senator, Senate Majority Leader.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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In the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the prize is the Senate seat of Democrat Paul Wellstone, killed in a plane crash last month. Latest public opinion polls show the Republican candidate, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, in what amounts to a statistical...
Sunday, 03 November 2002 12:00 AM
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