One of the best things about the Convention is taking in the local culture. In Minnesota that is the Mall of America and the State Fair. At the Minnesota State Fair you quickly learn that Garrison Keillor is right about the folks from Lake Woebegone: “The women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average.” This second largest State Fair boasts, bacon on a stick, an all the milk you can drink for a $1 booth and the giant slide. Truly it was amazing large, about four times the size of the Big E.
The state fair also has its share of politics. Sure there were a lot of McCain and Obama buttons out, but the real race highlighted at the state fair was the Minnesota US Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman the former mayor of St. Paul and failed Air America radio personality Al Franken (You probably know him best as Stewart Smalley). I got to see both candidates up close and get a good look at one of the closest races in the country.
Norm Coleman a Twins fan who took exception to my Red Sox hat, made the case for energy independence in the United States and consoled Minnesotans who had hoped Gov. Pawlenty would be in the #2 spot on the Republican ticket. He reminded them that it was Minnesota values that put the first woman on a national ticket when Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and now 24 years later, it was a Minnesota convention that would nominate Sarah Palin who would be the first female candidate to actually win the Vice Presidency.
Later at the Franken booth he gave a stirring speech about the need to improve American education and invest research and development to spur the US economy. In true Stuart Smalley fashion, he joked, “The most recent poll has me with a commanding 1% lead and I see no reason why I can’t double that.” Franken continued, “We need a governing majority in the Senate. Right now we hold the majority by the skin of Joe Lieberman’s teeth.” He also urged people to get involved saying, “I need you to put a bumper sticker on the back of your car and not cut anyone off for the next 67 days. Franken drivers are going to be the most polite drivers on the road.” Franken drew big crowd, but I wonder how much was celebrity and how much was enthusiasm.
Franken calls it the Wellstone seat, and is campaigning on that tragic legacy. In the end though, Minnesotans may just stick with Norm. Why? Because he’s good enough, he’s smart enough and dog gone it people like him. One thing is for sure, this is a race I will be watching on November.