Star Tribune endorses Norm Coleman, Barack Obama in Sunday edition


Minnesota's largest daily recommends Barack Obama, albeit with carefully even-handed sentences that seem intended to convey to the reader that the editorial board isn't drinking the Hope Kool-Aid. But John McCain's disasterous choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate made it all but impossible to endorse his candidacy for president:

This was a difficult decision because both candidates are flawed. Ideally Obama would have more experience and a long list of bipartisan accomplishments. Criticism that he has spent much of his time in the Senate running for the presidency is legitimate, and we were disturbed to see him break his pledge to abide by federal campaign spending limits.

McCain, whose campaign has lacked focus, made his most serious error in judgment with the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain is well aware that the No. 1 qualification of a vice president should be readiness for the top job. Palin does not have the depth of experience to assure Americans she would be ready to run the country.

Obama's steady and analytical approach has stood out during the campaign. To make his vice presidential selection, Obama analyzed his own weaknesses and turned to Sen. Joe Biden, who offered deep foreign policy experience and the ability to assume the presidency if necessary.

Considering the double-digit lead Obama owns in Minnesota, and the Strib's reputation (fair or not) as a liberal-leaning paper, the presidential pick was utterly predictable. Far more interesting is the endorsement in the highly-contentious senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken ...


The editorial board endorsed Norm Coleman for Senate, citing his (recent) record of bipartisanship:

Independent judgment, exercised on behalf of the best interests of the country and state, is what we hope to see from our U.S. senators. With that hope in mind, this newspaper recommends the reelection of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

The more independent, pragmatic Coleman emerged when he helped speed money to Minneapolis for a new Interstate 35W bridge; when he promoted tax credits for renewable energy investment; when he pushed for larger Pell Grants for needy college students; when he stood up to President Bush on extending publicly subsidized health insurance, including MinnesotaCare, to more poor children and their parents.

He showed good judgment most recently when, despite a tide of constituent opposition, he voted to authorize spending $700 billion to inject capital into banks and thaw a credit freeze. He rightly judged that quick action was needed to avert serious damage to the nation's economy.

Coleman didn't begin his Senate service as an agent of bipartisanship. But that's the note on which he wound up his six-year term and which he has sounded repeatedly in his reelection campaign. We like the trend we've seen and believe Coleman is capable of taking it further.

As a second-termer in what is likely to be a smaller Republican Senate minority, Coleman may be in line for a more visible and important role than he has yet played. He could be one of a handful of moderate Republican gatekeepers, through whom majority-backed bills must pass in order to achieve the 60 votes required to end Senate debate. He would be positioned to provide a check on Democratic excesses and pull policy to the center. He could even find himself allied with a Democratic president in reining in the spending ambitions of congressional Democrats.

It seems that Al Franken lost the daily's vote with his criticism of the Wall Street bailout package and his at-times overly-vicious criticism of Coleman and Republicans:

We bank our hope for a less polarized America with Coleman, despite accord with DFL challenger Al Franken on some important issues. However, we consider his recommendation for a "no" vote on the economic bailout package the wrong call at the wrong time.

Franken is a gifted communicator. His best-selling books skewering the Bush administration and the Republican right helped revitalize the Democratic Party when it was on the ropes. He's an effective critic. It isn't as easy to envision him as a constructive force for bipartisan legislation.