A bit of a surprise here in Minnesota came late yesterday when former Senator Norm Coleman took himself out of the governor’s race. Until yesterday, most assumed that Coleman would launch a late bid just before the caucuses begin in February, joining a race that already has 21 announced Republican, DFL (Democratic), and Independence Party candidates. KSTP got the scoop (via Shot in the Dark):
Former Senator Norm Coleman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Chief Political Reporter Tom Hauser Sunday he will not be running for governor in 2010. …
“I love Minnesota and I love public service, but this is not the right time for me and my family to conduct a campaign for Governor.
Timing is everything. The timing on this race is both a bit too soon and a bit too late. It is too soon after my last race and too late to do a proper job of seeking the support of delegates who will decide in which direction our party should go. The commitments I have to my family and the work I am currently engaged in do not allow me to now go forward.[“]
Most people believed that Coleman decided not to press his election contest to the federal courts in order to maintain political viability for future elections. Those who thought that figured that mean this year’s gubernatorial election. Coleman never talked publicly about running, however, and his loss in 1998’s election to Jesse Ventura, where DFL candidate Skip Humphrey came in third, may have figured into his thoughts as well.
Coleman would have been a more moderate candidate than those on the campaign trail already. Minnesota’s announced GOP candidates have openly embraced fiscal conservatism as a running platform, getting in step with the prevailing winds in the Obama era. Minnesota may be a more progressive state, but these other candidates may be better positioned than Coleman to take advantage of what looks to be a realigning election in November.
Still, Coleman was a good Senator whose policy stands may have put him at cross purposes with the GOP base at times, but who came through when it counted — and was the best Republican we could elect to a statewide office at that time in 2002. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Norm Coleman in Minnesota.
Update: My good friend Eric Black, a rational barometer of center-left thought in the state, was genuinely taken aback by the news:
Six months ago, I convinced myself, with help from several Republicans with inside knowledge, that Coleman was unlikely to run. But since then, it has felt like a steady drift toward running. The news will have a big impact on the race. I believed that Coleman, if he could get the nomination, would be the strongest Repub candidate for guv. (I personally thought winning the nomination would be a bigger challenge for Coleman.)
For months, likewise, a standard starting point for analysis of the race has been this: The DFL nominee is already a candidate. The Republican nominee is not yet in the race. Then Jim Ramstad took himself out of the running (twice). Then Brian Sullivan (whom I thought would have won the endorsement if he got in.) Now Coleman. (Not to mention that Pat Anderson, who was considered one of the top-tier candidates for the Repub nomination just last week dropped out on the grounds that Coleman would be getting in). So it begins to look as if the Repubs will really choose their endorsee and nominee from between state Reps. Marty Seifert and Tom Emmer.
I’ve met most of the candidates for governor, and I like Seifert and Emmer. Emmer has a larger-than-life presence that will suit him well in the caucusing, I think. I liked Anderson, too, but she’s decided to go after her old position as state auditor. I’m hoping for Laura Brod to toss her hat in the ring, but it’s looking unlikely. The candidates still in the race all have good platforms; it should be an interesting caucus process.