A new television ad promoting Republican Norm Coleman's U.S. Senate campaign is drawing criticism from the re-election campaign of DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone. The ad, put together by the Republican Party of Minnesota, attacks Wellstone for votes against military spending, tax cuts and welfare reform. The ad moves Minnesota's highly contested Senate race in a new, gloves off, direction.
The Minnesota GOP has spent an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several months promoting Norm Coleman's Senate candidacy. Until now, the ads have primarily focused on the former St. Paul mayor's accomplishments in areas such as education and economic development.
But in the latest 30-second spot, rather than promoting Coleman, the party takes direct aim at Wellstone.
The 1990 Paul Wellstone pledged he'd serve only twelve years. During that time Wellstone voted for higher taxes over 200 times, fought to increase welfare and to devastate our national defense.
The ad concludes with shots of a man and a woman complaining that Wellstone has broken his promise, and can't be trusted.
Wellstone campaign spokesman Jim Farrell says the GOP ad marks a turning point in the Senate race. Farrell says the state Republican Party has now joined groups based outside Minnesota in attacking Wellstone in a way that Farrell says Coleman pledged to avoid.
"This ad is full of false, ugly, negative attacks, full of distortions and when you don't have anything to run for, when you don't stand for anything, this is exactly the kind of ads you run. But I predict that it won't work in Minnesota," he said.
University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs agrees with the Wellstone campaign that the Minnesota GOP's so-called "12 Years" spot takes the Senate race in a new direction.
"This is kind of the opening bell in what could become a very harsh campaign and we may point to this ad as the beginning of it," Jacobs suggested.
But Jacobs says there's nothing wrong with the ad; that however sharp edged, the spot is fair and makes legitimate criticisms of Wellstone.
"A lot of what's going on in this ad are defining the differences between the candidates, which is entirely appropriate. It is a matter of record that the senator has taken votes on tax increases and stated some priorities regarding the use of the federal budget. So in those areas, I think it's appropriate," he said.
Jim Farrell, from the Wellstone campaign, argues Wellstone has voted for numerous tax cuts and that he has supported some defense spending.
Republican Party of Minnesota spokesman Bill Walsh says Minnesotans can expect more ads zeroing in on Wellstone.
"It's that time of the campaign. We are down to the last 50 days or so. This election ultimately is about Paul Wellstone," said Walsh, who insists that the ad is not an attack on Wellstone.
"People get excited about this, but the voters would be disappointed, I think, and would expect us to run an ad talking about the fact that he broke his pledge to serve two terms. It'd be shocking if we didn't remind voters of that pledge and it speaks to his trust. How can we trust Pall Wellstone if he tells us he's only running for two terms and then decides he's running for a third?" said Walsh.
Wellstone's campaign says it will respond to everything it considers to be an attack. But staffers say Wellstone will focus on facts and issues not attacks on his opponents.More from MPR