Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Coleman blogger conference call 

Several bloggers were invited to speak earlier this evening with Senator Norm Coleman about his upcoming campaign for re-election. It was a small and fairly informal affair, with Coleman holding forth with a group of about six bloggers that I heard for approximately thirty minutes. I heard Mitch, Michael, and Drew on the call. The campaign intends to make these a regular part of their schedule going forward.

The campaign put up a new video today, the first of what they hope to be many positive campaign ads highlighting Coleman's record. This one discusses some constituent service for a couple adopting a child from Haiti. There was some discussion of whether they would run more positive ads or ads contrasting Coleman from Al Franken or Mike Ciresi, but all I learned from this was that they had a plan to have both running and that some will go to TV. There was no commitment to when this would happen.

Both Coleman and campaign manager Cullen Sheehan emphasized that there was an uptick in small donations and in volunteer activity, indicating increase in activity. In response to questions about the mood of the base, Coleman pointed to low voter turnout in GOP primaries thus far but thought the issues were so important to people that we would see a response. We need independents to win, he stressed, and we have a way to go.

Questions were asked first about immigration. Coleman felt that the Bush SOTU speech had stressed the right balance about both respect for the law and for our country's highest ideals. Not a path to citizenship that allows anyone to jump ahead of legal immigrants, and nothing that would go ahead of actually securing the border first. Coleman understood that voters did not trust the Senate on the issue and this needs to be fixed, but he also felt that people want to be able to work and not live in fear. Common ground exists, he thought, in first fixing the border and then having people agree on the speaking English, paying taxes and holding employers responsible for hiring legal immigrants. I did not hear enough of how to get from those to the desire to have people not live in fear, but what I heard was stronger on immigration than some have portrayed as Coleman's position.

I asked about the stimulus package and his plans. He gave the standard answer on what I call 3T Stimulation (Timely, Temporary, Targeted) and that he felt all would come together and pass the plan by 2/15. Whether it stays identical to the House bill isn't as certain. He also gave a focused answer on housing, arguing for the Bush position on fixing Fannie and Freddie, modernizing FHA, etc. We cannot have plans like Barney Frank's plan to introduce greater regulation in credit markets, because it would end up denying access to credit to people wanting, for example, to buy their first homes. In five to seven years, he said, people may complain about lack of access to capital. The worst, he felt, would be to raise taxes.

He closed with a rather passionate defense of his position with the base, quoting the 80% rule about who to vote for (as my friend Gary says, your 80% friend isn't your 20% enemy.) I paraphrase here, but I think the line he used was "Leadership is sometimes moving in a direction that people don't yet know they need to move." The last election was not a rejection of conservatism, and on the key issues we agree. He left us with a story that comes from a Charles Swindoll book (I knew I had heard it before, but had forgotten where and had to look it up tonight.) His side was the one with the "Yes" face.

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