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Coleman’s Ex-manager Returning

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) is wasting no time in launching his re-election effort.

The first-term Senator tapped Minnesota native Cullen Sheehan to once again manage his campaign, which is already up and running.

Coleman is bracing for what could be a pitched battle, given that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) already has said his party will target Coleman next year.

It is a return engagement for Sheehan, who left his post as executive director of the Iowa Republican Party to return north and help Coleman, reported last week.

Sheehan, who was deputy campaign manager for Coleman in 2002, told Roll Call that he has been in place at Coleman’s campaign headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., since Jan. 1.

Coleman’s fundraising apparatus already is in high gear. He threw one major event in Washington, D.C., aimed at the retail industry last week and plans another with insurance lobbyists today.

“I think it’s clearly a sign that he thinks he’s in trouble,” said Brian Melendez, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic Party.

“I don’t know of any other [Senate] campaign organization that is in place with a campaign manager at this point in the game,” Melendez continued. “I guess Coleman saw what happened to all the other [President] Bush cronies in ’06 and is desperate and terrified.”

Despite Minnesota’s perennial status as a battleground between the two parties, Democrats last November easily held the seat former Sen. Mark Dayton (D) vacated and also picked up a House seat when now-Rep. Tim Walz (D) upset former Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) in the 1st district, inspiring party leaders’ optimism that they will make more gains in 2008.

Sheehan said that optimism is misguided if it hinges on dislodging the former St. Paul mayor from his Senate perch.

“The Senator doesn’t take anything for granted and wants to be organized and ready for the upcoming election. I’m thrilled to be a part of his team, and I am looking forward to helping him get re-elected.”

Sheehan also ran the unsuccessful 2004 campaign of businessman Tim Michels (R), who tried to unseat Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).

No Democrat has committed to taking on Coleman yet, but comedian Al Franken, who moved his Air America radio show to his native Gopher State partly in anticipation of running for Senate, is expected to make his decision within the next few weeks.