Why Kerry, Bush Are Columnists in Today’s ‘Duluth News Tribune’

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

On Election Day eve this morning, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry each makes the case for his election in separate front-page columns in the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune.

In one sense, the apparently unprecedented pairing of presidential candidate bylines so close to the election underscores the extent to which normally Democratic-leaning Minnesota remains a state in play for both parties.

But another reason the Bush and Kerry columns are appearing in the 45,688-circulation Knight Ridder newspaper is that its editorial-page editor, Robin Washington, came up with the apparently audacious idea at the last minute.

In an interview Sunday night, Washington said that on Mondays, the editorial page normally pairs pro-and-con articles on a particular issue in place of a single editorial reflecting the paper’s opinion.

“The thought just popped into my head: What better pro-and-con articles could we have on Monday than President Bush and Sen. Kerry witting about the election?” Washington said.

Washington said he approached the state campaign officials from both parties, “all the people who normally bother us for coverage.” Both campaigns jumped at the idea — especially the Republicans, he said. “The Bush people were very serious about it,” Washington said.

Though Washington is under no illusion that either candidate actually wrote his column, he is also sure the candidates signed off on them. The Bush column, in fact, was delayed for some time while it cleared the highest levels of the campaign, he said.

In a note to readers Monday, the paper said, “Each candidate was asked to tell why Northeastern Minnesotans should vote for him. Much of their material has appeared before, but the submissions are exclusive to the News Tribune and targeted to the newspaper’s readers.”

Bush concluded his 501-word column with these words: “On Tuesday, the people of Minnesota will make an important choice. I’ve worked hard to lift our economy, improve schools, help seniors, and make America more secure. On Tuesday, please cast a vote to build on the good work we’ve begun.”

In his 508-word column, Kerry at one point includes another battleground state in his message: “George Bush has spent four years fighting for the powerful and well-connected, but his policies have squeezed our middle-class families in Minnesota, Wisconsin and all through America.”

Both included pitches to the recreational pursuits of people in the News Tribune circulation area. “[W]e should allow citizens to enjoy our national parks — that’s why I reversed the previous administration’s plan to ban snowmobilers,” Bush wrote. And Kerry was careful to reestablish his credentials with hunters, writing: “Regardless of what the Washington lobbyists tell you, I support the Second Amendment right of law-abiding American citizens to own and bear arms, including rifles and shotguns.”

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