- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, likely to replace the late Sen. Paul Wellstone on the ballot in Minnesota, holds a slim lead over Republican Norm Coleman in a poll commissioned by the GOP.
The survey of 600 likely voters conducted Sunday night, two days after Mr. Wellstone's death in a plane crash, showed Mr. Mondale with 45 percent and Mr. Coleman with 43 percent. That is a statistical tie, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The poll encouraged Republicans that the race, which the GOP viewed as winnable before the tragedy, is still within Mr. Coleman's grasp despite the inevitable outpouring of sympathy for Mr. Wellstone's family and his legacy.
"What's been lost in the coverage of this tragedy is the strength of Coleman's candidacy," said Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Minnesota remains hugely competitive, no matter who the Democrats select later this week."
The state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will convene tomorrow night to choose a replacement for Mr. Wellstone on the ballot for Tuesday. Party insiders say Mr. Mondale, 74, is all but certain to be selected, and that he probably will accept.
Before that occurs, however, national and state politicians will take part tonight in a memorial service for Mr. Wellstone and the seven other crash victims at the University of Minnesota. The event, to include former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, will be covered by hundreds of reporters and attended by as many as 20,000.
Asked whether the mourning period and the emergence of Mr. Mondale put Republicans at a political disadvantage, Mr. Allen replied, "Nobody really can gauge the emotions that are going to be involved over the next eight days in this race."
But Republicans are preparing to rebut a shortened Mondale candidacy later this week. They intend to remind the public that Mr. Mondale's last race was in 1984, when he lost the presidency in a landslide to President Reagan and barely carried his home state.
In that campaign, in which Mr. Mondale was criticized within his own party for a lackluster effort, the former vice president won Minnesota by less than 4,000 votes out of more than 2 million ballots cast.
The GOP also will deliver the message, as subtly as possible, that voters should not hand the job to a candidate who was not seeking the office.
Referring to Mr. Coleman, Mr. Allen said, "He's been out campaigning for two years around the state."
Meanwhile, Gov. Jesse Ventura said he is reserving the right to appoint an interim successor to Mr. Wellstone, in part because he fears the Senate election will be contested. He said the appointee probably would not be the candidate selected by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
"I fully somewhat expect there will be litigation," Mr. Ventura told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "I can't see a way around this. And I think it's going to come in the form of how the election is held."
The Senate yesterday mourned Mr. Wellstone by approving a resolution expressing "profound sorrow and deep regret" at his death. His wife, daughter, three campaign aides and two pilots also died.
Mr. Wellstone's empty Senate desk was draped in black with a bouquet of flowers atop it.
"He never, ever blinked in the face of adversity," said Sen. Mark Dayton, also a Minnesota Democrat. "Courageous, difficult, perhaps at times unpopular positions were articles of faith for Paul, because he believed in them."

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