Transcript: Norm Coleman on FNS

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: In the race that has riveted much of political Washington and political America's attention in recent days, former Vice President Walter Mondale has stepped in to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Thanks in part to that memorial rally — memorial service for Wellstone that turned into a partisan pep rally, the race now has drawn quite close. And joining us to talk about that campaign and Monday's one and only debate out there is Minnesota's Republican Senate candidate, Norm Coleman. Joining the questioning is Fox News contributor Ceci Connolly of The Washington Post.

We should note, by the way, that we asked Walter Mondale repeatedly to join us, but he declined.

Good morning, Mr. Coleman. How does it feel to you this morning?

NORM COLEMAN: Good morning. It's feels very good, Brit. There's a lot of momentum. Crowds are bigger than one has ever seen in the towns and cities that I visit around Minnesota.

COLEMAN: Listen, I'm running against a former vice president. I know that's daunting, but we are feeling very, very confident. I'm going to work non-stop from now until the polls close on Tuesday.

HUME: Knowing what you know now about the planning that went into the Mondale campaign, the preparation for lawsuits that were subsequently filed, or at least a lawsuit that was subsequently filed by the Democratic Party in recent days, knowing what you know now about the planning of that memorial service by the late Mr. Wellstone's campaign manager, do you believe that you were suckered into stopping campaigning when the Democrats were continuing very serious and intense political activity?

COLEMAN: No, Brit, not at all. In fact, I thought it was, for me, the right thing to do, when Senator Wellstone died, to step back, as we did.

On the other hand, Brit, I got started 6:00 Wednesday morning. We mourned, we grieved, and we got back to work. And I think it's for the right thing. I've worked for two years, traveled around this state. And I'm working since Wednesday non-stop.

I actually think there's a burden on the vice president to tell people where he stands in the 21st century. How are you going to grow jobs? I cut taxes, good on taxes for eight years in St. Paul. We grew 18,000 jobs.

I believe the people of Minnesota understand that this is about their future, that I have a record of delivering for them in the immediate past, have a vision for the future. And the vice president, I think, has a burden to tell people where does he stand and how is he going to get it done.

CONNOLLY: Good morning, Mr. Coleman.

COLEMAN: Good morning, Ceci.

CONNOLLY: As you were saying, you've been running for this seat now for about two years, and in the race against the late Senator Wellstone, you talked a lot about how he was even too liberal for Minnesota, in many cases.

Is that the same situation with former Vice President Mondale, just that he is too liberal for the state, or is there a different argument when running against Mondale?

COLEMAN: You know, Ceci, I think, at this point in time, it's really not even running against. It's — I have been working for this. The Minnesota people reward you for hard work. I've laid out a vision for the future. I've demonstrated that you can cut taxes and grow jobs. And I think now it's me against Walter Mondale.

People loved Paul Wellstone for who he was. They may have disagreed with him on the issues, but they said I still like Paul Wellstone.

The vice president has picked up the gauntlet of Senator Wellstone on the issues, but in the end he's got to demonstrate what's his plan, what's his vision. And if he doesn't get that done before Tuesday, I'm feeling confident, or certainly hopeful, that we'll be successful Tuesday night.

HUME: Mr. Coleman, former Vice President Mondale has an extensive record on issues, going back, you know, to the '70s and the '80s. Are there points in that record that you now see as vulnerable to criticism by you? And, if so, what are they?

COLEMAN: You know, I've got to tell you that I'm not looking back at where he was in the '70s and the '80s, because, Brit, it was the '70s and the '80s. I think folks who are walking in or getting prepared to vote, and they're looking at the future.

They know what my vision is. They know what I've delivered for my city. They've seen the growth in jobs. They've seen the growth in optimism. They've seen the improvement in education. We brought a National Hockey League back to St. Paul. That's a big thing in Minnesota.

The vice president has only a few days now to articulate, lay out his vision for Minnesota's future. And I think voters are going to demand that. And if that's not done, then I believe I'll be successful.

But I'm really not digging back, because it was so long ago.

HUME: Let's take a look at a couple of the current polls that are out just today, a couple of newspaper polls out there in the Twin Cities.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has a poll that shows you up, what, 47-41.


HUME: The Minneapolis Star Tribune has just the opposite of that. You down 46-41.

What's the best information you can give us about your own polling that might help us figure out those two opposite results?

COLEMAN: Certainly much closer to Mason-Dixon.

And I think what's happened here, Brit, is the campaign started on Wednesday. I would think all the pollsters would say that there has been a shift in momentum since Wednesday, since we've both been on the campaign trail.

Again, I'm reminding people that I've been out there two years, I've been to these communities 10, 15 times. I've laid out a vision. And the vice president still has to do that, and we're less than 48 hours from the election.

So I think it would be fair to say, there's a lot of movement in our direction. We had the first lady here yesterday. We have the president here today. I've got Rudy Giuliani here on Monday, and I had the vice president on Friday. Our folks are fired up, and I believe that things are moving in our direction.

CONNOLLY: Mr. Coleman, some of our viewers outside of Minnesota may not realize that you, yourself, were a Democrat for quite some time. If I remember correctly, you endorsed former President Clinton in his races, also former Senator Wellstone.

Maybe you can explain to viewers when and why you switched parties. And I'm curious, have you voted for Walter Mondale in the past?

COLEMAN: See, to be honest, it was so far — long ago, I don't remember whether I voted for Walter Mondale.


Really, listen, I got elected as a conservative Democrat in 1993 against the endorsed candidate of the party. I switched parties in '96, right after, by the way, the vote on welfare reform, and then ran for reelection as a Republican in a Democratic city, overwhelmingly Democratic city, and I got close to 60 percent of the vote.

So, it was really kind of a process of where I'm trying to keep lids on taxes, which I did for eight years in St. Paul. I fought with my public employee unions over retiree health benefits that would have bankrupted my city. And I got involved in a series of these fights, where I'm doing what I thought was good things, merging, consolidating, more efficient government, and the only folks who were angry were the folks that wanted to keep government like it was, which was my old party.

So I made the switch. I ran as a Republican in a Democratic city, got elected overwhelmingly. And I'm very, very, obviously, comfortable with the understanding and belief that you create opportunity by shaping the environment, not by raising taxes and creating more government programs.

HUME: One last question, Mr. Coleman. You have a debate scheduled for Monday morning. I guess radio and TV in Minnesota will carry it. Fox News Channel will carry it live. But this isn't the same as a prime time debate. Why did you agree to it?

COLEMAN: Because we wanted to have a debate. We had a debate on Friday night in which the vice president didn't appear. I debated against the Green and Independent Party candidates.

Brit, again, I think the vice president has a responsibility to lay out his vision for the future. I've done that. And I believe people are responding.

So we took what we could get in this one, which is an opportunity to appear with the vice president, let us lay out our visions for the future. This race is about Minnesota's future, and I think the public will respond well to my vision and to my hard work.

HUME: All right, Mr. Coleman. Very nice of you to join us. Thank you very much indeed.

COLEMAN: I thank you.

HUME: We remind viewers here that we did ask Vice President Mondale to appear and he declined.