Norm Coleman is going to run for governor. The signs are almost as obvious as the ones that say Tim Pawlenty is running for president.
There’s no greater indication of what a political insider is planning to do, than other political insiders getting out of his/her way, and today gubernatorial candidate Pat Anderson became, instead, a candidate for state auditor, 24 hours after she talked to Coleman.
But Coleman had already given indications he’ll get into the race. A few days ago, he went on the defensive when a man told him to stay out of the governor’s race:
“The beauty of democracy is that one person doesn’t decide. The public decides,” said Coleman. “Right now I’m not a candidate. I’m thinking about it. A lot of people, unlike you, but a lot of people have come to me and knocked on my door.”
Look at his statement today:
In the near future, my decision about which path I intend to pursue to help Minnesota and its citizens address our state’s challenges and opportunities will become clear.
Refreshing as it might be, a politician doesn’t announce his intention “to help Minnesota and its citizens…” by not running for office.
Coleman automatically becomes the favorite to win the Republican nomination and enters the general election with 1,211,590 votes, the number he picked up in his race for U.S. Senate against Al Franken. The bitterness escalated during the protracted recount with Franken, but it’s unlikely Coleman supporters defected to the DFL side because of it.
Keep that vote number in mind because it’s almost 200,000 more than Tim Pawlenty got in 2008, and 300,000 more than Pawlenty got in 2002. In both cases, the Independence Party (previously the Reform Party) fielded a strong candidate. That isn’t the case this year. It’s also true, of course, that those Independent votes don’t automatically go to a Republican.
On the other hand, look at Barack Obama’s win in Minnesota last year. A lot of Republican districts voted Democrat at the top of the ticket, and Republican in the Senate race.
Coleman has the ability to raise cash (Anderson had previously indicated the big money is sitting on the sidelines until Coleman indicates whether he’s in the race), name recognition, and one poll already showed he’s the Republican front-runner if he gets in the race.
But whether he’d win a head-to-head race with a DFLer is another matter entirely. A poll last summer showed he wouldn’t, but that was also at the height of the Senate recount.
Coleman’s biggest challenge is his own party. Former party chair Ron Eibensteiner, in a commentary for the Star Tribune, said winning the endorsement “is a virtual impossibility.” He’s not far enough to the right.
We’ve been here before, Minnesota. In the ’90s, Republican power brokers regularly turned their backs on then Gov. Arne Carlson — a Republican — in favor of farther-right candidates like Alan Quist. All Carlson did was win general elections. Easily.
So that’s what the situation comes down to. Is Norm Coleman willing to buck the Republican core and run in a primary? That’d be a great way to woo independent voters.
But Coleman is in a position to satisfy disgruntled party insiders. He could add Rep. Laura Brod, a rising star in Republican circles who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate, to the ticket.
Much can — and perhaps, should — be made about the fact Coleman has lost two statewide races in his career. That might be a factor. But Democrats running for governor haven’t been appealing to the voters since the last time one was elected… in 1986.