By Jeff Fecke | July 9, 2008
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., has had perhaps the weirdest political career in American politics. In 1998, he made his statewide debut by losing to Jesse Ventura, a third-party ex-wrestler-slash-talk show host. In 2002, his comeback senate bid almost failed, until then-Sen. Paul Wellstone, DFL-Minn., died in a plane crash, allowing Coleman to win an abbreviated, one-week campaign against former Vice President Walter Mondale. Now in his re-election bid, he’s facing former comedian-slash-talk show host Al Franken, the odds-on favorite for the DFL nomination. And it appears he’s about to face former Gov.-slash-ex-wrestler-slash-ex-talk show host Jesse Ventura, IP-Minn., as well:
In an interview with NPR’s David Welna that ran today former Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Ind-Minn., says he will run for Senate, challenging incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., whom Ventura defeated for governor in 1998, as well as Democratic nominee and former Saturday Night Live humorist Al Franken.
Ventura, born Jim Janos, tells Welna that the main reason he’s running is because of Coleman’s support for the war in Iraq. “That’s the reason I run,” he says. “I run because it angers me…All you Minnesotans take a good hard look at all three of us. And you decide: if you were in a dark alley which one of the three of us would you want with you?
Ventura had a stormy tenure as governor and horrible relations with the Minnesota press corps. Thus, it was the June issue of a local wine magazine where he chose to drop hints about his pending campaign.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a statesman,” he told Wineheads. “I do one term, and then I go back to the private sector. If I get back into the fray again this year, it’s only because I’ve been gone five years back to the private sector. That’s what I did when I was mayor. That’s a statesman. That’s not a career politician.”
If you’re a fan of pure political theater, it does not get any better than this. Ventura could be surly, churlish, and petulant as governor — but he could also be engaging and charismatic, and while he was a goofball at times, he was an objectively better governor than the present occupant of the office.
Can lightning strike twice? Can James Janos beat out two better-funded candidates again? My money’s still against it, because Jesse has a record, he will draw scrutiny, and most important, Norm Coleman won’t make the mistake of telling everyone that votes for Jesse are wasted. Franken won’t either.
Then again, Jesse starts with support in the mid-twenties, which is roughly four times what he started with in 1998. And given that Al Franken trails badly right now…well, is it impossible to think that some DFLers may decide that if Franken can’t get over the top, better Jesse than Norm?
The biggest thing this does is flip the chess board over. Up until now, Coleman has tried to make the race about Franken’s personal issues, and to a great degree he’s been successful. But that strategy won’t work as well in a three-man race. Moreover, the Franken strategy of attacking Coleman won’t necessarily pull votes over to him — grumpy Republicans and grumpy Democrats alike may put their faith in Gov. Turnbuckle.
No matter what, this race just got infinitely more interesting. What was starting to look like a Coleman walkover just became a completely messed-up muddle. Unless, of course, Jesse changes his mind. It wouldn’t be the first time.
- Jesse Taylor Back Where He Began
- Not This Time
- The Trouble With Al
- Norm’s in Big Trouble
- Neither Good Nor Smart Enough