Coleman makes a stop at Panera
By Lawrence Schumacher
Outside the door at Panera Bread, a costumed Democrat portraying President Bush waited for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., to arrive for his stop in St. Cloud on the fourth day of his ongoing "Hope Express" bus tour of Minnesota.
Inside, Hannah Frank also waited for Coleman. Friday was Hannah's seventh birthday, and she wanted to see the U.S. senator when she heard he was making a stop in town, said Mickey Frank, her mother.
"They're fans," Mickey said of Hannah and her two siblings, after Coleman had made a crowd of nearly 50 sing "Happy Birthday" to Hannah.
Telling the crowd "I know you so well!" and giving them a brief version of his well-honed stump speech, Coleman campaigned with a sense of urgency Friday.
"I love what I do, I want to keep doing it and I can't do it without you," he told the crowd. "If we lose this race, it will be a different America. It will be the Al Franken decade."
Recent polls show Coleman's DFL challenger Al Franken catching up with or passing Coleman, and Independence Party challenger Dean Barkley nearing 20 percent support.
Coleman played up his campaign's recent decision to air only positive campaign ads through Nov. 4. DFLers say the now-retired ads were hurting Coleman's campaign and note that national Republican groups and other third parties have kept the negative attacks flowing against Franken.
Coleman said the Franken campaign has continued running negative ads and that he cannot control what third parties do.
"Is it better that some negative ads are taken off, or not?" he asked. "I can only control what I can control."
The costumed Bush impersonator that greeted guests and Coleman is shadowing Coleman's bus tour to remind Minnesotans of his record, said Kelly Bjorklund, DFL Party spokeswoman.
"Norm voted with the president 90 percent of the time in his first term and 98 percent of the time in his first year," she said. "He is a big fan of the president and has been a rubber stamp for this administration throughout his term."
Bjorklund also noted that while Coleman emphasizes bipartisanship and building consensus in his stump speech, he plans to seek the chairmanship of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is charged with recruiting and electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate.
Scott Mabusth was one of many who had his picture taken with Coleman during his stop Friday.
The Panera Bread general manager said the campaign called to ask if it was OK to stop at the restaurant.
Despite the Coleman signs and paraphernalia everywhere Friday, Mabusth said he wasn't taking sides, though he did donate the coffee.
"I've got to run a business here. Can't be partisan, you know," he said.