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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 16:58 GMT
Former heavyweight Mondale bows out
Senator-elect Norm Coleman gives the thumbs up as he leaves the Republican election night party HQ
Norm Coleman was hand-picked by George Bush

One of the most dramatic campaigns in this election appears to be over in Minnesota.

The Democrat and former Vice-President, Walter Mondale, has lost his bid to retain the Senate seat which was held by the late Paul Wellstone.

It means Mr Mondale will be sent back into retirement by his Republican opponent, Norm Coleman. But the 74-year-old Democrat appears to have been beaten by a small margin.

Walter Mondale speaks with reporters at election night headquarters
Walter Mondale had been brought out of retirement for the contest
With almost all the votes now counted, Mr Coleman is only ahead by one or two percentage points. Not enough, though, to force an automatic recount, and it will mean another new seat for the Republicans.

It was a long night for Minnesotans. Walter Mondale's late entry for the Democrats after the death of Paul Wellstone in a plane crash required a separate hand-counted ballot to determine whether he or Norm Coleman would be going to Washington.

This, as well has a high turnout of voters, meant a slower count than normal. The lead was taken by Mr Coleman early in the night and he retained it throughout.

National security

But his apparent victory will be bitter-sweet. Campaigning by both parties was thrown into turmoil by the death of Mr Wellstone, who was known for his die-hard liberalism and outspokenness in the Senate.

Mr Wellstone had recently voted against giving President George Bush authority to attack Iraq, a decision taken on principle but one which many believed to run counter to popular opinion.

Voters arrive early at the May Town Hall to cast their ballots
It was a long night for Minnesotans as votes were counted by hand
This made national security a defining issue in the campaign here. Mr Mondale did not hesitate in telling voters that he, too, would have dissented. But it looked as if his status as a political icon still put Democrats in with chance.

That was until a memorial service to Paul Wellstone turned into a political rally. Polls afterwards indicated that any sympathy vote may have been squandered by the Democrats.

For his part, Mr Coleman ran a shrewd campaign, dealing sensitively with the death of Mr Wellstone. But as the candidate hand-picked by Mr Bush, he lent heavily on the president.

Mr Bush came four times to Minnesota to offer his support. Democrats argued that this would compromise his independence but Mr Coleman has insisted he owes nothing to the president and will be his own man in the Senate.

Now it seems likely he will get the chance to prove that is what he can be.


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Results Latest: 13:58 GMT
House:
206 seats 227 seats 2 seats
Senate:
49 seats 51 seats 1 seats
Seats: House/Senate
Democrats: 206 / 49
Republicans: 227 / 51
Independents: 2 / 1
See also:

06 Nov 02 | Americas
06 Nov 02 | Americas
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