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Coleman kicks off re-election campaign

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman launched his re-election campaign in Rochester Wednesday, citing his results-oriented approach to legislating and his record of working across party lines as reasons voters should return him to the Senate for a second term.

"At a time like this, when national partisanship is so inflamed, we need uniters, not dividers," the Republican senator told a crowd of supporters at the Rochester International Event Center.

Polls suggest that Coleman will face a hard-fought contest. The political environment was not kind to Republican candidates in 2006, and signs indicate the 2008 election season could be just as challenging, said Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier.

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"He’s definitely running into a headwind," Schier said.

But Schier said some things might be shifting in Coleman’s favor. The Iraq war is not the main issue for voters as it was two years ago. Health care and the economy have muscled into the forefront of voter’s concerns.

DFLers have yet to endorse a candidate for the Senate race, but the favorite remains former comedian and liberal talk-show host Al Franken. Coleman made no overt reference to Franken during his speech in Rochester, except as a foil to highlight his own record as a former mayor of

St. Paul and now U.S. senator.

"I’m running on my record, because unlike my opponent, I actually have one," Coleman said.

At a news conference before Coleman’s announcement, Laura Askelin, president of the Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council, said the Bush-Coleman economy has been bad news for middle-class families with its job losses, mortgage foreclosures and rising college costs.

"Unfortunately, Senator Coleman is only concerned with the needs of a few corporate special interests, but we are determined to put a stop to the Bush-Coleman agenda, to create an economy that works for all, not just a few," Askelin said.

Coleman acknowledged that "these are challenging times," but expressed faith in what he called America’s greatness, in its ability to summon optimism in the face of tough times.

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