Coleman treads with caution as re-election bid nears
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Norm Coleman is engaged in a delicate verbal dance as the Iraq war debate plays out on Capitol Hill. The Minnesota Republican has demonstrated several maneuvers in recent weeks that suggest he recognizes public disapproval of t...
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Norm Coleman is engaged in a delicate verbal dance as the Iraq war debate plays out on Capitol Hill.
The Minnesota Republican has demonstrated several maneuvers in recent weeks that suggest he recognizes public disapproval of the U.S. war strategy as his 2008 re-election bid looms ever closer.
Coleman showed his first step shortly after Congress convened last month. Sitting in his softly lit Capitol Hill office the day before President Bush announced a new Iraq war plan, Coleman offered his own carefully crafted critique of the situation.
"I simply do not believe that under the present circumstances, under the present time, that a surge in troops is going to lessen the level of violence," he said in an interview.
That was followed by a move on the floor of the Senate.
Coleman, who has traveled to Iraq, denounced sending more troops to Baghdad and called for more involvement from Iraqis in quelling violence.
Most recently, Coleman opposed a mostly Democrat-backed Senate resolution soundly rejecting Bush's new war plan. Instead, he said he'll vote for an alternative nonbinding resolution that stresses the importance of the war effort but stops short of supporting the unpopular troop increase plan.
With only a year remaining before a re-election bid would typically get under way, Coleman has distanced himself in other ways from controversial Bush policies that might lack support among Minnesotans.
Take war funding, for instance. In the interview, Coleman said he sides with some Democrats who believe Iraq war spending should be included in the federal budget. The Bush administration has paid for the war largely through periodic supplemental budget.
Despite being a minority member of the new Democrat-controlled Congress, Coleman suggested he still will be a player in the Senate because some Republican votes are needed to pass most legislation. He also retains his position on a few influential Senate committees, including Foreign Relations.
"I'm in a position to become more effective," he said.
Through his spot on the Senate agriculture committee, Coleman plans to lobby for a new farm bill that closely resembles the current U.S. agriculture policy, which expires later this year.
The first-term senator downplayed speculation he has moderated some of his legislative positions in preparation for a tough campaign next year. Coleman, who has admitted he might be the most vulnerable Republican senator up for re-election, touted a record of working with Democrats on a variety of issues including agriculture, homeland security and foreign investigations. Leading political observers have tracked Coleman's record and their results might surprise Minnesotans who think the senator votes solely with GOP leaders, Craig Grau said.
"He's not one of these 100-percent conservative types," said Grau, a retired University of Minnesota Duluth political science professor. Coleman, a former Democrat, does have a moderate streak, going back to his time as St. Paul mayor, he added.