The 4th MN Senate Debate

The full debate can be watched at tpt.org. Here's where the MN Senate race currently stands based on public polling and our projections:

Minnesota Senate Graph

The debate was conducted by Twin Cities Public Television with funding provided by Travelers, Health Partners, Great River Energy, Flint Hill Resources, Education Minnesota, The University of Minnesota and AARP. Now onto the actual debate.

7:01 CT: This will be the last televised debate, although a final debate is scheduled to take place on November 2nd. "We call this a debate, but that's probably too formal a term; there are no time limits, no opening or closing statements."

7:02 CT: The camera panned through the candidates in alphabetical order; Dean Barkley (I), Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D).

Minnesota Senate Candidates

7:03 CT: "That's an easy one;" the first words of the debate by Norm Coleman when asked to state the biggest misrepresentation of his candidacy in opposing ads. Norm cited the ad run by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee stating that Coleman has "voted for tax breaks for big oil." Sen. Coleman supported his vote by stating that 85 other Senators, including Obama, voted for the 2005 Energy Bill because "it contained the first renewable fuel standard."

7:04 CT: Franken was then asked the same question. After talking about a medicare ad he ran, the moderator pushed Al to answer the question. He then called out Norm for running a false ad counter to the medicare ad he had just mentioned. "I am for a prescription drug program and medicare, in which medicare is allowed to be negotiated on medicare part D. That'll bring down the price of drugs for seniors...[Norm's] ad said that I was laying in my ad but I wasn't." Norm Coleman then interjected by saying that "this is a great division."

7:05 CT: Norm followed up by questioning Al Franken's ability to actually vote for the issues he claims to support. Norm's trying to run on the: I didn't like everything in every bill I voted for, but I vote for certain bills because of specific details that are important to Americans. Norm questioned Franken's ability to do the same. Al Franken seems content to accept this conjecture. Norm continues to cite his support for the 2005 Energy Bill despite its big oil tax breaks by citing its inclusion of renewable energy standards. Norm concluded by stating that "you gotta be for something in this business." The problem with this arguement is that Norm Coleman has largely been for the policies established and support by the Republican party during Bush's reign. I don't know if this is a particularly good arguement by Sen. Coleman.

7:07 CT: Dean Barkley then contributed for the first time. He was asked the same question. "I get a badge of honor. The DSCC just put up an ad today, I saw it on TV, claiming that I was in favor of privatization of Social Security...I've been railing against Social Security and trying to fix it since 1992." Dean Barkley then went on to state that the ad implied this result by "hedging" the wording. Al Franken then distanced himself from the ad, as it as the Democratic Party, not his campaign who put the spot together. Al then stated that he would ask the DSCC to take down the ad.

7:08 CT: "Norm Coleman voted to put money from social security into private accounts which would have ment putting social security in the stock market...it would have been a terrible mistake, as we can see now." Al Franken seems to have realized that his strongest line of attack focuses on the weakness of the economy and the inherent superiority of the Democratic Platform on the issue.

7:09 CT: Norm was then asked to respond to the previous assertion by Franken. Norm responded as follows, "I have supported the idea of folks having some ownership [of Social Security]." Norm went on to suggest the creation of a committee to fix Social Security; Barkley interjected by stating that "we get elected to make decisions, not to pass it off to somebody else...our Senate doesn't have the courage to make the fix."

7:11 CT: Norm Coleman then made a baseball reference that made absolutely no sense; "This is kinda like watching Carlos Gomez of the Minnesota Twins, he's kinda fun to watch but if you don't know the fundamentals you can't win the game." Barkley is running against the political mindset, while Coleman is running as a bipartisan member of machine.

7:12 CT: The Social Security question then moved to Franken. "Social Security right now is solvent until 2041." Franken wants to end the "regressive" tax structure of FICA, "this is what Senator Obama is talking about....I'm not gonna raise taxes on anyone."

7:13 CT: Barkley then immediately questioned Al's assertion that Social Security will remain solvent until "thirty-one, forty." Barkley then referenced a question he asked "150 kids" at Cretin-Durham Hall (a respected St. Paul Catholic High School); "Any of you in this room think you are going to get Social Security? Not one of them raised their hand."

7:15 CT: Franken: "If the US treasury bonds aren't good, we're in a whole bunch a trouble."

7:17 CT: Does it make sense to pass another stimulus bill? Barkley went first. Barkley is against a further stimulus package. Onto Franken, his mantra is "Jobs Baby, Jobs." He's also against another stimulus bill. Norm didn't really answer the question, he mainly just talked about why he voted for the first bailout bill. Norm then briefly answered the question, "if [a second potential bailout bill] is another spending package I'm not going to support it."

7:19 CT: Al spent much of his time talking about a "Golden Parachute" clause in the first bailout bill that indirectly allowed executive level employees the ability to receive upto "$59,999,999" in severance if the situation were right. Coleman countered by saying that "[Al] can't just be against things."

7:21 CT: Barkley interjected into the conversation. He first targeted Al Franken for his massive spending projects while citing the fact that "we're eleven trillion dollars in debt." Al Franken did not immediately respond to this attack. Barkley then moved onto Coleman. "Norm, I'm glad you're saying we wanna balance the budget in five years, but where were you for the last six where we accumulated five trillion dollars of debt on your watch." Norm immediately interrupted. I find it very interesting that Coleman responded, but Franken let the accusation pass.

7:22 CT: Coleman responded by citing Barkley's time as "Ventura's right hand guy." Coleman went on to pin the Ventura administration for a budget bill that left the state with a huge budget deficit. Barkley blamed the bill on a deal orchestrated by Roger Moe (D) and Tim Pawlenty (R). Ventura vetoed the bill, but it was overridden in the legislature because of this deal.

7:23 CT: The conversation moved to Franken who stated that "[he is] against deficit spending" and supports balanced budgets.

7:24 CT: "Norm wants to continue the Bush economic policy, understand that...Norm thinks that wealth starts at the top and trickles down." At this point Norm jumped, Al waited patiently, and then continued his attack completely ignoring Norm.

7:26 CT: Barkley conjured the possibility of a filibuster proof majority of 60 Democratic Senators and stated that this mindset is why Washington is broken. "If you only get 59, is nothing gonna happen?"

7:27 CT: Commercial break, two minutes. During the break Twin Cities Public Television promoted a half-hour special spotlighting the three candidates' history.

7:30 CT: The debate resumed with a question directed at Norm Coleman regarding bipartisanship, "The partisan divide is what's tearing America apart."

7:31 CT: Al Franken then brought up the fact that Coleman is also running for chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Franken then cited the statistic that Coleman has voted with Bush "98% of the time."

7:32 CT: Barkley completely called out Coleman and Pawlenty as being "handpicked" by the Bush-Cheney Administration.

7:34 CT: The previous arguement halted as the question moved to Franken. Al recalled his work with a Republican from Texas and his work that helped raise money for "40,000 helmet liners for our troops." Coleman again jumped in, "Would [Franken] work across party lines if somebody disagrees with [him]?" The moderator jumped in and killed the discussion.

7:36 CT: The discussion shifted to the 2nd Amendment. One of the moderators stated that "[Franken's] writings are replete with sort of negative comments about the NRA." Al Franken then asked the moderator to cite one. The moderator said he had seen a list. Franken then again asked him to cite one. The moderator couldn't, Coleman then tried to have his way but got side tracked. Franken then stated that he "supports the 2nd Amendment." Throughout the whole discussion neither Coleman nor Barkley could definitively recall anything Al Franken had written that neglects the 2nd Amendment.

7:39 CT: The moderator then switched the topic to another anti-Franken issue; the are you anti-Catholic question. Franken stated that his wife is Roman Catholic. Sensing that the anti-Catholic story line was being diffused, Coleman brought up a reference to John Kerry and communion. I don't think this arguement will stick because it wasn't presented in a coherent matter.

7:42 CT: Barkley essentially let the circumstances of the anti-Catholic arguement die and the moderator moved on.

7:44 CT: Should the capturing of Osama bin Laden have a higher priority? Franken lead off by saying that the war in Iraq is distracting the USA from the true war on terror. Barkley went next, "Al Qaeda didn't show up in Iraq until we got there." Barkley wants to get out of Iraq in "6 months to a year" but he understands that there may be deviations from that timetable. Finally Coleman countered by saying that Barkley supports a "precipitous withdrawal" and Franken wants to leave Iraq in defeat.

7:46 CT: "If we followed the advice of Dean or Al we would have been in a worse situation [in Iraq]." Norm again sides with a minority position on a major issue. Norm justified his support for permanent bases in Iraq under the premise that our troops are "not in the crossfire." This stance seems somewhat contradictory to his unequivocal support for the war itself.

7:48 CT: Does Franken want permanent bases in Iraq? "No."

7:49 CT: Dean Barkley shifted the conversation to how the US should adjust its spending practices, "why do we need to spend this much money, [on the war] that we don't have."

7:51 CT: Franken wants to end the "cowboy foreign policy" of the current administration. Coleman agreed that there were foreign policy mistakes during the Bush administration and then went on to say that "we shouldn't be the world's police man."

7:52 CT: Franken shifted the dialogue to Norm's position as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; "[Norm] did not have one committee meeting on the contracting in Iraq." Norm responded by stating that he had found "$80 billion in wasteful and abuse." Franken responded by blatantly saying that Coleman's statement was not true; Coleman then replied by blaming the Democrat currently chairing that committee.

7:53 CT: Barkley decided against a final twenty second arguement, instead he simply stated that he "rests his case." Franken's final 20-second arguement: "We need to send somebody to Washington who's gonna work for change." Coleman concluded by saying "we need to work together."

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