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Mondale and Boschwitz ponder presidential politics
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Former Vice President Walter Mondale says he thinks Democrats have a good chance in the 2004 presidential election. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)
The presidential election is just a year away, and Democrats and Republicans are saying Minnesota is a toss-up. Former Vice President Walter Mondale says he thinks Americans are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the Republican leadership in Washington. Former Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz says President Bush is vulnerable now; but Boschwitz says a year is a long time, and he's predicting the issues will break in Bush's favor.

St. Paul, Minn. — Walter Mondale has some experience when it comes to running for president. He was on the national ticket three times. Mondale was Jimmy Carter's running mate when Carter was elected president in 1976. Four years later Carter and Mondale lost their re-election bid to Ronald Reagan and the senior George Bush. In 1984, Mondale lost his own run for president to Reagan.

Twenty years later Mondale said he thinks Democrats may be in a good position to mount a challenge to President Bush.

"There's a lot of things that are going on that I don't think are good for our country."

Mondale said he thinks a number of issues favor the Democrats.

"These huge federal deficits, I think we're going to pay for in a harsh way," Mondale said. "I think the way the tax cuts were all tilted toward the very wealthy means that there's going to be - it's not only unfair but there's not going to be funds for the education and other things that the America people need. I don't like that. I think the record surrounding the entry into the war in Iraq is an embarrassing one to put it mildly. "

Former two term Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz is finance co-chairman for the Bush-Cheney 2004 Minnesota campaign. He maintains the U.S. efforts in Iraq are noble, and that the Bush administration made every reasonable effort to work with the United Nations.

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Image Former Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz

"Of course we do have a fairly large coalition -- not as large as any of us would like -- but a fairly large coalition," Boschwitz said. "I'll tell you it wasn't from a lack of trying. The president went to the United Nations many, many times, delayed the action in Iraq many, many times. If you wait for the French to do things or some of the other countries there you know you never get anything done."

Boschwitz said he thinks Americans across the board are benefiting from the Republican-backed tax cuts, and that the mounting deficits will begin to shrink as the economy recovers.

But Boschwitz agrees the confluence of domestic and international problems leaves President Bush vulnerable... at least right now.

"I think that argument is correct," said Boschwitz. "If things are as they are or have been in the economy on November whatever the date is, the president will have difficulty. However the economy is recovering quite nicely, so it's more likely that things will be better. If things continue in Iraq that also could be a negative. But we're doing the right thing there, and I suspect that too will improve."

Boschwitz said Democrats have a relatively strong field of candidates, particularly his former congressional colleagues: Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman and Representative Richard Gephardt. Boschwitz also said Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is running what he calls a "skillful campaign."

Walter Mondale said he's spoken with most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, and that he'll likely endorse one of them. Mondale said to win Democrats need to settle on a candidate as soon as possible.

"I think it depends a little bit on how the Democratic party handles its business, whether we're about to get a good nominee early so that we have a good convention and we're able to mount a good campaign, but I think now we've got a chance," he said.

Minnesotans can expect a front row seat in the 2004 race for the White House. Minnesota is battleground state. Bush lost here by less than three percentage points in 2000. Republicans and Democrats agree the state's electoral votes could go to either party.

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