October 26, 2002
Democrats See Mondale as Best Hope for Victory
(ALISON MITCHELL, October 26, 2002, NY Times)
Even as Democrats in Washington mourned the death of Senator Paul Wellstone today, they scrambled behind the scenes to press former Vice President Walter F. Mondale to enter the race as their best hope for salvaging the Senate seat from Minnesota. [...]
People close to Mr. Mondale said he was not ready to rule out running but considered it unseemly to speak out so soon after Mr. Wellstone's death. But Mr. Mondale, who was a senator from 1964 to 1976, when he resigned to be Jimmy Carter's vice president, seemed to invite speculation about his intentions today when he appeared at a news conference in Minnesota beside Senator Edward M. Kennedy and promised that Mr. Wellstone's cause would live on.
"I think if Paul were here, he would want us to think about one thing - to carry on the fight he led with such courage and vigilance for all these years," Mr. Mondale said. "We intend to do that."
This race now has to be considered "Safe--Democrat". Here's how it will play out. Mr. Mondale will try to get the Party to agree to nominate his son Ted. They'll demur and he'll accept.
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2002 7:02 AM
I don't know about that -- granted, I don't know Minnesota's demographics all that well, but what percentage of eligible voters even remember him (more than as the Big Flop of '84)? Among the ones who do remember him, I'm not sure I'm (quite) cynical enough to believe they'd vote for Mondale just because they liked him back in the day.
I suspect Orrin believes a sympathy vote will make people lean to Mondale. If Coleman were a regular Republican I think he'd be right. But Coleman is a long-time Democrat turned Republican, he is popular in Minnesota, and people may not feel that a vote for Coleman is a failure to honor Wellstone. Karl Rove's maneuvering to get a moderate candidate may pay off here. There has to be some skepticism about voting for somebody many voters know little about. Coleman may be the safe choice.
Fate (and in NJ, chicanery) have again conspired to allow two "have beens" (and if they were something at some point, they were not what their states need today) to keep the Senate in Daschle's hands. How on Earth does Coleman campaign against this backdrop? How does Forrester campaign against a shadow?
Read or listen to some of the tributes to Wellstone--they're portraying him as a saint, so you get the good will working. Meanwhile, no Minnesotan has ever made it closer to the top of the greasy pole than Mondale, and such hoary old figures tend to be remembered fondly, even by those who never much liked them. Hell, Barry Goldwater tributes made him sound like Mother Teresa.
Add to that the awkwardness of Coleman trying to campaign now and you've got Carnahan redux.
Wellstone was closer to Lenin than he was any great American figure. He was about as repulsive a guy as one could be in American politics, as his views were obnoxious and lacking intelligence. Enough of these brain-dead memorials.
As God is my witness, I once saw him walk on water...
Everyone contemplating a Carnahan Redux scenario is forgetting the particulars in the Carnahan election:
First - The Democrats began talking up Jean Carnahan as a replacement candidate the morning after the plane went down. As sitting Governor. Mel Carnahan was also the de facto head of the Missouri State Democratic Party and his death had greater impact on that election than Wellstone's will on this one because it affected multiple state wide races.
Second - Clinton, Gore and other national figures were in and out of the state ginning up support for the "Still for Mel" tribute campaign for at least a week. The campaign cleverly hinged on the concept of Elect a dead man AND a Democratic Governor will guarantee that his wife serves out the term. In Minnesota there is no family member to run for Wellstone, and no DFL Governor to assure the result.
Third - Carnahan was down about 6% in the polls when he died. Ashcroft suspended his campaign for the remainder of the race. This allowed the State & National Democrats to combine resources and run balls-out against him. Their campaign of equal parts smear and sentiment, combined with the blanket sympathetic press coverage of Mel's funeral and Jean's subsequent decision to replace him, proved toxic to Ashcroft.
The Democrats won, managing a 2 point margin of victory after 3 weeks running unopposed, with intense state and national party backing, visits by the President and VP plus all the local media outlets broadcasting sympathetic coverage? That's not a remarkable achievement, its embarrassing to the Democrats that it wasn't more.
The Wellstone case bears only a passing similarity to the Carnahan case. There is less time before the election, there is no National Democratic presence on the order of Bill Clinton and/or Al Gore to gin up support for the new candidate. Wellstone won't be replaced by his wife, so the sympathy vote will be blunted. Coleman is not Ashcroft, he won't go away just because Wellstone died in a tragic accident. I believe that Coleman will win the election in Minnesota, even though he's down about 5%-6% in current polls, I believe this just became a turn-out battle and I don't see there being a huge turnout for the Wellstone/Mondale ticket when the alternative is a moderate former democrat in republican clothing.
You don't think Walter Mondale, Mr. Special Interest himself, can turn out union and minority voters? That would shock me.
Agree with MG - fate has taken a possible pickup in MN to a probable no pickup and NJ tricks have taken a probable pickup to a probable no pickup.
I'm not ready to write off Coleman (or Forrester for that matter). In MN the key was the independents - are they going to go for 80(?) yr Mondale vs the moderate Coleman?
Related question - everyone is wondering who Ventura will name as the temporary Senator - why can't he just wait a week and appoint the winner of the real election?
If I understood what they said yesterday, that appointee would only serve until Election Day, not fill out the rest of the term.
In the case of Minnesota I believe the governor's race will have a decided impact on the senate race. The tough three way race promises to bring out the independent vote and while I don't doubt Fritz Mondale's ability to turn attract the traditional DFL constituencies in Minnesota, I am simply saying that it is far from certain that he will also draw independent in sufficient numbers to beat Coleman.
To be blunt, Mondale looks old and sounds past it. Coleman is a well known, and respected, former member of the Democratic/DFL caucus. He's running as a moderate Republican and is as good a campaigner as Mondale. I truly believe this becomes a turn-out race. If the Dem Gubernatorial candidate is winning the day before the election - Mondale will win, if the Rep. candidate is winning - Coleman has a great chance of pulling off the upset, and if its the independent - probably Mondale but it could be an upset. That's just my view of things.
Ah, I see, forgot you guys have three parties (at least). I'd still think Mondale can turn out Unions and blacks in a low turnout election and win easily.