Senator Norm Coleman, R-Minn., has earned a second term in the U.S. Senate. The moderate Republican has demonstrated the ability to reach across the political aisle and remain true to his core principals.
His opponent, Democrat Al Franken, is a sincere, intelligent candidate, but embraces a style of hard-edged liberalism that would hamstring his effectiveness as a senator.
Critics of Coleman contend he's been too cozy with President Bush, who is not popular in Minnesota. But it should come as no surprise that a Republican senator would find common ground with a Republican president.
Nonetheless, on several important matters, the senator has opposed the president, including the new Farm Bill and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to name just two. A compilation of his 2006 votes on major economic, social and foreign policy issues reveals a nearly 50-50 liberal-conservative split, which is about as representative of Minnesota as it gets.
Coleman's conditional support for the war in Iraq evolved as conditions in the war zone changed. He has never been an advocate of willy-nilly withdrawal, as is Franken, but rather favors a phased withdrawal predicated on Military success. Franken's refusal to concede the success of the troop surge is in contrast to Coleman's knowledge that the surge has accomplished its goals.
On the economic front, Franken has spent too much time assigning political blame for the nation's current downturn. Coleman worked overtime to secure the rescue legislation that is showing early positive results.
Temperament and demeanor are important in a senator. Coleman is a seasoned Minnesota politician, whose life of public service has been exemplary, whether as the successful mayor of St. Paul, a long stint with the state attorney general's office or as a U.S. senator.
He knows how to build consensus and work with bipartisan coalitions, both in and out of the Senates. He's developed a sharp ear for the concerns of Minnesotans, and his constituent service is responsive.
Franken's undisguised disdain for the senator is both unwarranted and revealing. The former comedian/satirist seems unable to leave the mean streak of his former work behind. Politics is tough business, but it need not be as unpleasant as the stuff coming out of the Franken camp.
The candidates and their surrogates have not covered themselves with glory regarding the character of their campaigns. But Coleman has tried to clean it up while Franken has opted for the low road.
Franken has not come close to making a case that Coleman should be replaced. Indeed, the campaign has drawn sharp distinctions between the two men, with the senator emerging as a strong and decent voice for Minnesotans and an effective member for the national legislature.
Senator Coleman has earned a second term.
This senatorial endorsement represents the views of Forum Communications Co., parent company of the Woodbury Bulletin.