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Coleman to Pull All Negative Ads Through Election Day

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) announced on Friday that he will cease all negative advertisements in his hotly contested re-election campaign and said he’d like everyone else, including the third-party groups who support him, to do the same.

During a news conference at his campaign headquarters Friday, Coleman announced that he was suspending all negative campaigning because of the financial crisis and issues of “real consequence” dominating the last weeks of the election cycle.

“I’m doing this for two reasons,” Coleman said in a statement. “First of all, this is a terrible time for so many people with the financial crisis — with real concerns and fear about people’s jobs, about their life savings and their children’s future and education — when we are all bombarded with negative messages of real consequence. At times like this, politics should not add to negativity — it should lift people up with hope and a confident vision for the future. And second, I decided that I was not all that interested in returning to Washington for six years based on the judgment of voters that I was not as bad as the other two guys. I want folks to vote for me, not against the other guys.”

Coleman’s matchup with comedian Al Franken (D) has already proved to be one of the most negative races in the country. Recent polls have shown an increasingly tight race between Coleman and Franken, with former Sen. Dean Barkley of the Independence Party capturing double-digit support — in part because voters have been turned off by the tenor of the Franken-Coleman battle.

A Minnesota Public Radio/Humphrey Institute poll of 418 likely voters taken Oct. 3-5 gave Franken an edge over Coleman, 41 percent to 37 percent, with 14 percent supporting Barkley. The poll had a margin of error of 4.8 points. Survey respondents blamed Coleman for instigating the negative race by a 2-1 ratio, according to MPR.

Most recently, a Sept. 12 Coleman campaign ad, “Angry Al,” excerpted expletive-laden quotes from Franken’s media and radio career. In the spot, Coleman’s campaign questioned whether Franken had the temperament to be Senator.

But as of Friday afternoon, that spot — along with the rest of the advertisements that the campaign had deemed negative — were removed from the video-sharing Web site

Coleman warned that some negative materials might already be in the pipelines and could take a few days to remove from the airwaves, Internet and mailboxes across the state. In the same breath, Coleman called for third-party groups to release positive ads as well.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a statement relinquishing any responsibility of the ad-buying activity of its independent expenditure arm. The committee has more than a dozen negative advertisements about Franken on its Web site.

“By law we are not allowed to coordinate with the NRSC’s IE Unit, which operates independently of this building,” said NRSC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher. “Therefore, neither the NRSC nor the Coleman campaign can dictate the message or the type of ads that the IE Unit chooses to run.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s IE arm is also responsible for a bevy of negative ads against Coleman, including a recent spot featuring two Minnesota parents grieving the death of their son, who served in the military in Iraq, and blaming Coleman and President Bush for supporting the war.

DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said Coleman’s announcement was too little, too late.

“After spending millions on bitter personal attack ads, Norm Coleman now wants to turn back the clock to avoid any discussion of his record of supporting the failed policies that have crippled the economy,” Miller said. “We never comment on what ads we might run, but Norm Coleman’s record of rubber-stamping the Bush agenda should be a part of this campaign, and just because Coleman’s now losing doesn’t mean he gets to change the terms of the debate.”

Franken’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

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