CNN/TIME AllPolitics Vote '96

Minn.: Democrat Wellstone Defeats Boschwitz

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (AllPolitics, Nov. 5) -- Democratic incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone defeated former Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz to return for his second Senate term. Wellstone

This year's Senate contest was not so much a new race as a continuation of the one from 1990, which resulted in Wellstone's upset win over then-Republican incumbent Boschwitz.

Seeking to turn the tables in his rematch with Wellstone, Boschwitz came back with a much more focused and disciplined campaign. And he used the same kind of ammunition -- the incumbent's Senate record -- that his opponent used to oust him in 1990.

Wellstone eked out a 2 percentage-point victory that year over Boschwitz, who was the only incumbent senator in either party to lose a bid for re-election that year. With more than two weeks to go until Election Day, this year's rematch appeared as if it could be as close as the 1990 contest.

Minnesota's airwaves were deluged with charges and counter-charges being hurled not only by the two campaigns, but also by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which hammered Wellstone for months.

Boschwitz and the NRSC accused Wellstone of being an "ultra-liberal" and "embarrassingly liberal." Boschwitz claimed his opponent is a relic of the 1960s. He blasted Wellstone on a wide range of issues, most notably the incumbent's vote against the welfare-reform legislation signed into law in August. Boschwitz

Boschwitz claimed Wellstone has been soft on crime for voting against mandatory sentences for criminals. He has also characterized Wellstone as a typical tax-and-spend Democrat who backed several tax increases in his first term, including an increase on certain Social Security benefits for wealthy retirees and a 4.3-cents-per-gallon increase in fuel taxes.

Wellstone found plenty of fodder in Boschwitz's own Senate record. The Democrat fashions himself as a champion of working families and said Boschwitz is on the side of the "powerful special interests."

In particular, he slammed Boschwitz in a television ad for voting against an increase in the minimum wage, while supporting a pay raise for senators. At the same time, Wellstone touted his efforts to pass legislation to increase the minimum wage and his 1991 vote against a Senate pay raise. "Paul Wellstone: He stands up for what's right," was the tag line on one Wellstone ad.

He has also attacked Boschwitz for opposing funding for "educational opportunities" and taking contributions from tobacco interests.

Some Democrats reportedly expressed concern that the double-barreled attacks being lodged at Wellstone were not being adequately answered. A few weeks ago, Wellstone switched media consultants and hired Mandy Grunwald, a former political adviser to President Clinton. But some of the Democrats' concerns were allayed by a poll, released Oct. 15 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and WCCO-TV, that showed Wellstone leading Boschwitz by 47 percent to 38 percent.

One factor in Wellstone's favor was the presence of Reform Party candidate Dean M. Barkley, who took 5 percent as an independent candidate in the 1994 Senate race won by Republican Rod Grams. Barkley appeared to be pulling more votes from Boschwitz than Wellstone, according to Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "In a close race, his support will matter," Schier said.

Congressional Quarterly contributed to this report.


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