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Capitol Chatter: Voters wonder, what’s the difference?

REDWOOD FALLS – The prevalent feeling after U.S. House and U.S. Senate forums at Farmfest appeared to be that the candidates did too little to differentiate themselves from each other.

When asked who won, few could offer answers.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who has represented western Minnesota for two-dozen years, explained an incumbents' attitude: It is up to challengers to offer up the differences.

Republican challengers for the U.S. Senate and western and southern Minnesota U.S. House districts were much gentler on Democratic incumbents than in the past when many conservative challengers were criticized for sounding mean.

Observers noted, for instance, that McFadden and Franken exchanged as many compliments as barbs.

What did he say?

Republican-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden was not the only politician to say things at Farmfest that his campaign may have wished he hadn't.

Dayton made a couple of comments that may come back to haunt him during the campaign, both coming from his well-known self-deprecating sense of humor.

First he said: "I have no talent. That's why I became a politician."

Later, he said a few words to the audience to begin a program. But he forgot a main reason why he spoke, a proclamation honoring farm families. He started to walk off stage when an aide reminded him of the proclamation.

"That's why I have young staff whose brain cells are all intact," Dayton joked.

Politicalfest notes

– Dayton said the University of Minnesota should be allowed to decide whether the "Redskins" name should be used in the college stadium when the Washington football team plays the Minnesota Vikings there. University officials oppose using "Redskins," but the National Football League has resisted efforts to force the team to change its nickname. The Vikings will play at TCF Bank stadium during construction of their stadium.

– College Republicans say they will follow Franken with a photo cutout of President Barack Obama. The idea is to tie Franken closely with the president. When asked by a reporter if that connection bothered him, Franken simply said that he could give the reporter the telephone number of a political professor, then abruptly moved on to the next question.

– McFadden promised to the Farmfest crowd that he would sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee if elected. That's a tough promise to fulfill since Senate leaders make such decisions. After saying at Farmfest that he would be on the ag committee, his campaign issued a news release saying that he would seek a seat, leaving out the promise that he would be named to the committee.

– While many politicians this year say the rural vote is critical, Franken said that since he only won by 312 votes in his first campaign, after an extended recount, that “every part of the state is important.”

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.