If voters in Minnesota want bipartisanship, then Doug Johnson has a solution for them.  The former DFL state Senator plans to vote for a Republican for the first time in his life, and that vote will go to Norm Coleman.  He’s not reluctant about it, either:

Longtime DFL legislator Doug Johnson said he was ingrained with the political philosophy of Minnesota legendary Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey — “The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican.”

But on Nov. 4, the former chairman of the powerful state Senate Tax Commission, will split his vote for the first time ever. His ballot will be marked in a familiar Democratic way for Barack Obama for president, Jim Oberstar for 8th District congressman, Tom Bakk for state senator and David Dill for state representative. But in the U.S. Senate race, Johnson will cast his vote for incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

“I’m strongly supporting U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman for re-election, the only Republican I will have voted for in more than 40 years as an eligible  voter,” Johnson said in a telephone interview late last week. “I’ve never been a ticket splitter before, but the problems on the Range, state and country are too severe to just stick with one political party. I’m also strongly supporting Barack Obama for president and Jim Oberstar for Congress from the 8th District and have long admired Amy Klobuchar, our other current U.S. senator who is not up for re-election.”

Johnson isn’t some backbencher in the DFL, the Minnesota version of the Democratic Party (Democrat-Farmer-Laborer).  He chaired a powerful Senate committee, and ran for governor in 1998, coming in third to Skip Humphrey, who lost to Jesse Ventura — along with Norm Coleman.  johnson has long been a leader of the DFL, and his endorsement will rock Minnesota politics.

How will this affect the race?  It’s doubtful that any significant Republicans in Minnesota will endorse Al Franken, nor will Franken get many crossover votes.  Johnson’s endorsement could push a lot more DFL voters to cross over to Coleman, especially in the Iron Range.  That has been traditionally DFL territory, but much different than the Twin Cities college-town vote.  Iron Range voters are heavily working class with more traditional values, and many there will not feel comfortable with Franken.

One way to measure the impact is to see how the Star Tribune reports it.  Instead of treating it like the significant political story that it is, they use five paragraphs off of an AP report.  I’m not even sure it made it into the print version for today.  When a former party leader endorses the candidate of the opposite party for the US Senate, most people would consider that significant political news … unless the newspaper in question is more interested in getting that candidate’s opponent elected.

See my radio partner Mitch Berg for a further lesson in Minnesota bipartisanship.