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That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Happy Fourth of July…

Here in Minnesota, Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken are canvassing the state at various hometown parades in their race.

Tim Gihring of Minnesota Monthly finds Franken walking a tightrope as polls show him trailing Coleman in what should Democratic year. "Minnesotans have already
voted for such nontraditional candidates as Wellstone and Ventura
(though it should be noted that Jesse, in a three way race, won office
with 37 percent of the vote). Voters are no less likely to favor a
former funnyman like Franken. It just depends on how he pitches
himself. “People here are willing to accept eccentricity—Ventura and
Wellstone had their share of eccentricities—so long as the candidate
isn’t being fake, isn’t playing games with them,” says Schier. “That’s
the challenge for Al Franken. The real Al Franken has to become
apparent to Minnesotans in a way that they approve.”

"It’s a
challenge Franken still seems to be struggling with. As he tries to
define himself with voters, does he play up his sense of humor, or play
it down? Does he reveal, as at the U of M event, his inner geek? Or
does he try to live up to the smart aleck persona people expect?"

Those I have talked to here suggest that Franken has been perhaps serious on the trail, perhaps enough to make him like a conventional DFL candidate, ones who have come up short against well-financed incumbents.

And a word of warning for Franken: Ventura is considering an independent Senate bid, perhaps enough to peel away the "throw the bums " out vote.

Minnesota, the site of the Republican convention, could be in play in the presidential race, particularly if John McCain picks Gov. Tim Pawlenty to be his running mate. Although presidential seasons of late have started with the assumption that the Land of 10,000 Lakes is a battleground state, in the end it has always been reliably blue. No other state has gone to the Democrats for the past eight straight presidential elections. The last time Minnesota went to the Republicans was in 1972.

Obama and Iraq: Barack Obama’s comment yesterday that he might "refine" his position on Iraq fueled considerable attention that this was another example of flip-flopping, and the candidate organized a second press conference to deny that his position on troop withdrawal is changing.

It’s interesting, however, how quickly his "refine" statement traveled and how quickly so many assumed that he was changing his position on Iraq. He’s already been accused of not-so-subtle shifts on NAFTA and gun control, so this would ostensibly fit right into that narrative.

The campaign sought to dispel that.   

“Let me be as clear as I can be,” he said, per the New York Times “I intend to end this war. My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war — responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.

“And I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades a month, and, again, that pace translates into having our combat troops out in 16 months’ time.”

McCain’s Movie:
Jeffrey Ressner and Kenneth P. Vogel of The Politico takes a look back at "Faith of My Fathers" — the movie. Don’t remember it? That’s probably because it was a TV movie that ran on A&E in 2005, and although it scored good ratings for the cabler, longforms have a tough time enduring in a cluttered landscape. Shawn Hatosy played McCain in the pic. A coincidental tidbit: Scott Glenn played McCain’s father in the pic; he plays Donald Rumseld in Oliver Stone’s "W."

Other items: Obama inspired songs pop up in the Caribbean…State department officials found to be snooping on celebrity passports…Will the election degenerate into a debate over who is more patriotic? Or has it already?

Photo: Smithsonian’s original Old Glory, which inspired Frances Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, is being restored.

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