Political notes -- Peterson: 'I will not be ag secretary'
By Don Davis
and Scott Wente
St. Paul Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL - One Minnesotan discussed for a Cabinet position if Barack Obama wins the presidency says he would not accept any such offer and another made such a move sound doubtful.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson heads the U.S. House Agriculture committee and Rep. Jim Oberstar is chairman of the Transportation Committee.
Peterson, who serves western Minnesota, left no doubt about being in the Cabinet: "I will not be ag secretary under any circumstances. Don't want it. I will not take it. I will absolutely not do that under any circumstances."
Peterson said being a top federal ag official would muzzle him too much. Oberstar, whose district includes northeastern Minnesota, was not quite so definite.
"I think the threshold would be very high," Oberstar said. "I've seen what happens to well-intentioned people who go into Cabinet offices and then they're surrounded by people they have no control over, policymakers who have other agendas."
All the talk about Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty becoming John McCain's running mate is a bit overwhelming. Publications from Australia to London to Washington to New York have been speculating about the prospect for weeks. But on Friday, the New York Times' Michael Cooper put it all in perspective. McCain often calls the Minnesota governor part of the next generation of Republican leaders, something Minnesota observers take to mean Pawlenty is in line to be McCain's running mate. Not so fast, Cooper says.
"But a word of caution, before you start daydreaming about that reclining seat aboard Air Force Two: He says that about all the would-be veeps." Cooper wrote. Every day brings more talk about Pawlenty's vice presidential chances, but Mike Longaecker of the Red Wing Republican Eagle reported that Pawlenty said he has no indication McCain is looking at him as a vice presidential candidate.
Franken wants Obama
The Washington Post reports that Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken is among candidates seeking a visit from the Democratic presidential candidate. Senate campaign spokesmen for Democrat Tom Allen in Maine, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Al Franken in Minnesota and Rick Noriega in Texas all said they have reached out to the Obama campaign and are pleading for a visit from either the candidate or his wife," the Post reported. "Their efforts are not entirely surprising, given Obama's strength in those states during the Democratic primaries."
Minnesota voters split
Minnesota voters showed their independent nature in a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University. They favor Democrat Sen. Barack Obama for president by a 46-32 margin over Republican Sen. John McCain. But Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman leads 51-41 over Democrat Al Franken in the Senate race. In the presidential race, Obama takes nearly every demographic group in Minnesota. And while most voters say it would make no difference whether GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty were McCain's running mate, a few more who were polled said it actually would hurt McCain rather than help him.
Coleman liked what
he saw in the poll.
"That's a terrible number for a Democrat," Coleman said of Franken's figure. Interestingly, men give Coleman a 20-point advantage, but women are evenly split between the two candidates.
Fully 92 percent of Republicans are behind Coleman, the poll shows, but just 76 percent of Democrats are solid with Franken. Only 8 percent of Minnesotans remain undecided in the race, the poll indicates.
Pool registration needed
A new law requiring public pool owners to register with the state begins Tuesday. They are required to report to the Minnesota Health Department, telling state officials about their pools and drain covers, before they can be licensed. It all is part of the Abigail Taylor Pool Safety Act, which lawmakers passed earlier this year. The department has a Web page about the new law. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/pools/poollegislation.html
Speculation about timing
It appeared just a bit fishy the other day when U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, announced her support for strictly regulating speculative oil trading.
After all, her comments came a day after her party's presidential candidate, Barack Obama, delivered similar remarks. And they came at the same time a U.S. House committee was dealing with the subject.
It seemed like a pre-planned subject of the day.
But Klobuchar, backed by two independent private business people, said her event was planned long before the Obama and House announcements.
Conrad gets offer
Perhaps Countrywide Financial should check its list of sales prospects a little closer.
North Dakota U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad pulled a sheet of paper from his jacket pocket the other day while discussing the status of his mortgage controversy. The rumpled print-out of the e-mail with a date of June 19 was Countrywide offering him a discount on fees to refinance his home loan.
Conrad received a discount on a 2004 Countrywide loan, for a beach home, and some wonder if it is because he is a powerful senator. Conrad said he received no preferential treatment and asked the Senate Ethics Committee to look into it so he can be cleared.
The new Countrywide offer appeared to be a mass e-mail and not directed only at Conrad.
"I do find it interesting that last week they're offering, obviously widespread, (a) discount point on refinancing," Conrad said, suggesting the deal he got on a refinanced mortgage in 2004 wasn't unusual. "That's what they did on my loan, a 1-point discount ... and that's what they're offering here."