- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. Strategists for Republican Norm Coleman yesterday said his Senate victory over a liberal icon was due in no small part to the conservative policies he ran on.

In an attempt to explain the Republicans' triumph on Tuesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the success was due to President Bush's popularity and the huge amounts of money he raised for candidates, and "not to ideology."

But as Minnesota's Republicans celebrated their victory over former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, Coleman campaign officials flatly rejected Mr. McAuliffe's explanation of what happened here.

They said Mr. Coleman ran on an agenda that included many policy positions at sharp variance with the liberal positions supported by Mr. Mondale and, before him, by the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone who was killed in a plane crash 11 days before the election.

"He ran a very policy-based campaign on very specific issues," said Leslie Kupchella, Mr. Coleman's communications director.

Mr. Coleman was often identified in Minnesota newspapers as a moderate who ran on changing the combative tone in Washington and reaching out to a wider political base. But that portrayal overlooked the sharply conservative positions he ran on, strategists said.

He supported Mr. Bush's proposal to let workers invest part of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds. Mr. Coleman touted the Bush tax cuts at virtually every stop, demanding they be made permanent. He also signed a pledge not to raise taxes. He is pro-life, and embraced the president's plans to use military force to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Mondale, a liberal Democrat, fiercely disagreed with all of these positions and attacked each of them Monday in the men's first and only debate. In a moment of frustration with Mr. Coleman's moderate-sounding responses, Mr. Mondale angrily shot back, "What you're doing is sticking with the right wing and pretending to change the tone."

When the votes were finally tallied in the early morning hours yesterday, Mr. Coleman was the winner by a margin of 50 percent to 48 percent. Independence Party candidate Jim Moore received 2 percent of the vote.

"Norm reached out to a broader political base with appeals that sought to bring people together rather than to pit one group against another, but he ran on very firm, specific ideas that appealed to voters," a Coleman campaign strategist said.

So did Republican Tim Pawlenty, who won the governorship Tuesday. He ran as a conservative who promised to never raise taxes, opposed abortion and supported concealed-weapons legislation.

Notably, the bulk of Mr. Coleman's support came from the "GOP's more conservative base," said Coleman campaign manager Ben Whitney.

"We had a huge turnout in the suburbs," he said.

At a noon rally in the state Capitol, Mr. Coleman told supporters he was "humbled" by his upset victory over a major political figure who is a Democratic icon in Minnesota politics.

"I'm here at a time of almost indescribable joy," he said, "but there is also great sadness."

In a gesture to Wellstone supporters, he said, "I missed him in that debate. He had such great energy.

"We are going to come together," Mr. Coleman promised. "We have to go on and move forward."

Later, Mr. Coleman told reporters he hoped he could work out an arrangement with Dean Barkley whom Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed to serve out the remaining weeks of Mr. Wellstone's term so Mr. Coleman might take office earlier to gain seniority advantage in the Senate.

In his concession speech yesterday, the 74-year-old Mr. Mondale said "this is obviously my last campaign." He acknowledged he had little time to mount an effective offensive against Mr. Coleman, who had been vigorously campaigning for 14 months.

"We began a campaign in the saddest of moments, and then had one week to face this extraordinary challenge," Mr. Mondale said. "I have no regrets. This is something that had to be done. We kept the faith, we stayed the course and everybody should be proud of that."

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