By Tom Larson
Like his opponent, Al Franken, did earlier this week, incumbent Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman stopped briefly in Morris, stood before a packed house, laid out his case for re-election and urged his supporters to help him get the job done.
Coleman and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke to about 120 people Wednesday afternoon at DeToy's Family Restaurant in Morris.
Both Pawlenty and Coleman talked about why the incumbent, seeking a second six-year term, stood in stark contrast with his opponents. Coleman ended his comments by asking supporters to make calls. He invoked a quote by Mother Teresa: "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
"I ask you as patriots, not partisans, go do small things with great love," Coleman said.
Coleman's and Pawlenty's Morris visit was one of five they made Wednesday throughout western Minnesota. Coleman is locked in a virtual dead heat with Franken six days before the Nov. 4 general election.
Pawlenty, in the unusual role of second banana, warmed up the room by telling supporters that Coleman's incumbency is an asset to them.
"Norm Coleman understands common sense and good values," Pawlenty said. "Norm Coleman knows Minnesota, and Minnesota knows Norm Coleman."
Pawlenty touted Coleman's "fiscal discipline" and desire to move government into a position of living within its means, just as small businesses and families do.
Coleman is adamant about taxpayers getting quality for their monetary investment, that dependence on foreign oil be sapped, that he's a non-partisan politician with a record of turning government around, and that, ultimately, he is a good person that Minnesotans can identify with, Pawlenty said.
"He has our values," he said.
Coleman took the floor and drew a laugh by expressing his astonishment at three miracles he's witnessed: First, the Minnesota Gophers football team is 7-1 after a 1-11 season in 2007. Second, in his travels recently, he's seen gas prices dropping as low at $2.17 a gallon. And third ...,
"I was endorsed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune," Coleman said.
Americans are stewards of opportunities created by people like Coleman's father, and that it's this generation's duty to pass those opportunities on, Coleman said.
It isn't an easy job given the current state of the country, he said. He spoke of feeling the anger and anxiety afflicting many people around Minnesota, especially as it relates to the financial troubles they are now embroiled in. Coleman, citing his former career as a prosecuting attorney, vowed to find culprits and hold them accountable, but he cautioned voters to proceed with a cool head.
"When you go into the voting booth, don't be looking for who to blame, but who can fix it," Coleman said.
Coleman said he supports a line-item veto at the federal level -- "and bring Gov. Pawlenty in to show them how to use it," he added -- and that he would not support tax increases during tough economic times.
On surmounting what he called a "partisan divide" in government, Coleman spoke indirectly to one of his talking points on Franken's past of angry outbursts and diatribes against Republicans.
"We've got to get past that," he said. "We don't need folks pouring more gas on the fire. We need people to bridge that."
Referring again to gas prices -- more seriously this time around -- Coleman said it would be a case of "shame on us" if falling gas prices diverted national attention and resolve from developing methods of energy independence and blunted a push for more offshore drilling and nuclear power plants.
"We've got to have that long-term view," Coleman said. "We can't be held hostage anymore."
He once again staked out a position opposite Franken and Independence Party opponent Dean Barkley by calling for patience with the situation in Iraq. Saying his opponents wanted to pull out as soon as possible, Coleman stated that the situation there was improving, that al-Qaida was moving out of Iraq to Afghanistan, and that post-surge successes would be beneficial when the fight is refocused there.
"We have a model of success (in Iraq) that we can apply to Afghanistan," he said.
Coleman wrapped by noting that 15 years ago he was elected mayor of a deteriorating and depressed St. Paul, and he said his successful revitalization of the city serves as a political blueprint that can work again.
"We didn't raise taxes for eight years, we made the streets safer and we came together," he said.
His current political battles are difficult, and this election comes at an important time, Coleman said.
"I need your help," he said.