WASHINGTON – Though Sen. Paul Wellstone has not been buried yet, political analysts are looking to replace the Democratic Minnesota Senate candidate with a winning replacement.
They have tapped into former Vice President Walter Mondale, 74, the Minnesota native who was trounced in his 1984 run against then-incumbent President Ronald Reagan.
Comparing his political leanings to Wellstone, Mondale vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said he would be a great successor to the liberal two-term senator killed in a plane crash last Friday.
"You are not going to get a person who you could say this is the way he is going to vote. You have ... seven days ... until election, what you've got to do is look for the type of person, a person that you could have the same kind of confidence in to do the right thing, and I think that is Fritz Mondale," Ferraro said.
Polling conducted by Republicans in Minnesota on Sunday night revealed that Mondale, who served as Minnesota's senator from 1964 until his election as vice president to Jimmy Carter in 1976, leads Republican former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman by a 45-43 margin, statistically very close.
The size of the survey and margin of error are unclear, but Democrats immediately criticized Republicans for conducting the poll before Mondale officially jumped in. Though Fox News learned on Sunday that Mondale told the Wellstone family and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., that he would agree to run for the Senate, an announcement was not expected until Wellstone was buried sometime before Wednesday.
Mondale's return to electoral politics comes after an 18-year lapse that started with his defeat against Reagan. In 1989, he refused to run against then-Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, R-Minn., saying that he was tired of running for office.
"One of the requirements of a healthy party is that it renews itself,'' Mondale said at the time. "You can't keep running Walter Mondale for everything.''
That decision opened the way for Wellstone, who defeated Boschwitz in a come-from-behind knockout effort.
Mondale's decision to stay out of politics came after a career in public service that started in 1947, when at the age of 19, he joined Democratic Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey's re-election campaign. The next year, Mondale worked for Humphrey's Senate campaign.
In 1960, he was elected Minnesota's attorney general. He was re-elected in 1964, but in January 1965, Humphrey decided to run for vice president and Mondale was appointed to succeed him.
He was elected in his own right in 1966 and again in 1972.
He stayed there until 1976, fighting for the "powerless," especially minorities, the very young, and the elderly. He strongly backed the 1965 Voting Rights Act and was a harsh critic of President Richard Nixon's domestic policies and his continuation of the Vietnam War.
"If you take a look at the things that people have said about Paul Wellstone over the past couple days, he is man of integrity the conscience of Senate as I said, a person who looked out for the downtrodden, did everything in his whole life, public life, especially was about civil rights and human rights, a person who put principle above politics. If you take all those definitions and you move them just a little bit over, you can find Fritz Mondale fitting every single one of those as well. He has been talked about as well as a person who puts principle over politics," Ferraro said.
Mondale declined an invitation in 1972 to be running mate to Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., who ran unsuccessfully against Nixon. He later accepted the invitation posed by Jimmy Carter and the two served for four years before being defeated by the Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush team in 1980.
In 1984, Mondale earned the Democratic presidential nomination. He was the first to ask a woman to join as his running mate. Mondale and Rep. Ferraro, D-N.Y., picked up 13 electoral votes.
"I think you know I've never really warmed up to television,'' he said then. "In fairness to television, it never really warmed up to me.''
After a respite, Mondale, the son of a Methodist minister and music teacher, was named in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as U.S. ambassador to Japan. In 1998, he agreed to serve as a U.S. envoy to Indonesia.
He has worked at his Minneapolis law firm since 1996.
Mondale was born in tiny Ceylon, Minn., to Norwegian immigrants. His stiffness once earned him the campaign-trail nickname "Norwegian Wood.''
"How I was raised, you got spanked for bragging,'' he once said. "I can't explain it, but it is pretty deep.''
Mondale married Joan Adams in 1955. They have three children. He entered the Minnesota Bar in 1956. He is a skilled potter and author.
Fox News' Carl Cameron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.