In an interview with NPR’s David Welna that ran today former Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Ind-Minn., sounds like he may run for Senate, challenging incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., whom Ventura defeated for governor in 1998, as well as Democratic nominee and former Saturday Night Live humorist Al Franken.
Ventura, born Jim Janos, tells Welna that the main reason he would run is because of Coleman’s support for the war in Iraq. "That’s the reason I run," he says. "I run because it angers me…All you Minnesotans take a good hard look at all three of us. And you decide: if you were in a dark alley which one of the three of us would you want with you?
Ventura had a stormy tenure as governor and horrible relations with the Minnesota press corps. Thus, it was the June issue of a local wine magazine where he chose to drop hints about his pending campaign.
"I’m not a politician, I’m a statesman," he told The Midwest Wine Connection. "I do one term, and then I go back to the private sector. If I get back into the fray again this year, it’s only because I’ve been gone five years back to the private sector. That’s what I did when I was mayor. That’s a statesman. That’s not a career politician."
Ventura said of Coleman, "the guy has not had a job in the private sector his entire adult life. He’s been collecting government checks since the day he got out of law school and went to work for the attorney general’s office. So when Norm Coleman tells people in the private sector he feels their pain, how? He’s never been in it. At least Al Franken knows what the private sector is. I would like to send him out and get a real job in the private sector."
Ventura called Franken an opportunist and a carpetbagger. "He hasn’t lived here in 30 years, and he’s only coming back to Minnesota for the convenience of his own political agenda. Why didn’t he run in the states he was living in? Clearly, for being a Harvard graduate, he’s not too smart on taxes, is he? Everybody laughs, saying I came from wrestling. But at least I knew when I wrestled in 40 states, I had to pay taxes in those 40 states. You just have to do the paperwork. I find it unbelievable that someone who could go to Harvard didn’t know that or let it slip. Blaming his accountant is worse, because now he’s turning into a politician. He’s not accepting responsibility for his actions."
A recent state poll has Coleman leading with 52 percent of the vote and Franken with 40 percent.
A hypothetical race with Ventura shows Coleman with 41 percent, Franken with 31 percent and Ventura with 23 percent.
Of course, as this priced-to-move 1999 biography of Ventura recalls those poll numbers are far better than Ventura’s numbers in his 1998 gubernatorial run. In June 1998, Ventura only had 7% support. In November, he won with 37% of the vote.
UPDATE: Ultimately those Ventura observers — who argued that the former governor’s occasionally confusing syntax should be taken into account when reporting his seemingly definitive declaration "that’s the reason I run" — are correct.
Ventura told The Associated Press he had been speaking hypothetically to NPR, that in responding to Welna’s question about why he would run, "I gave him the reasons why I would run. But I said ultimately, it will come down to whether I want to change my lifestyle and go to that lifestyle or not." Reports the AP: "Ventura says bluntly that no one knows whether he will run — not even his wife. He says the decision won’t be made until next Tuesday, the filing deadline."
This blog post has been updated to reflect Ventura’s carification.