ABC News' Tahman Bradley Reports: In an extremely anxious moment built up by delaying the big moment for 12 minutes, and after a week of intense guessing about his intentions, Jesse Ventura announced tonight on CNN that he has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota this year.
"I've decided not to run," Ventura told Larry King, though he left the door cracked that he could become motivated to enter the race by tomorrow's 5 p.m. filing deadline if an act of God were to occur.
Ventura said he thought long and hard about whether he wanted to subject his family to the scrutiny of a campaign and ultimately decided against running.
Even without the race's second celebrity, the Minnesota Senate contest has become a contentious and expensive battle that will likely gain major media attention this fall. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman is being challenged by former "Saturday Night Live" comedian, Democrat Al Franken -- and Mr. Coleman is in trouble.
Minnesota has been trending toward the Democrats. Residents are angry with President Bush and Republicans in Congress and Coleman has felt the heat. His approval rating has fallen below 50 percent. Right now, Coleman holds a 10 point edge over Franken, *according to a poll conducted last month*, but polls on the presidential level show Democrat Barack Obama leading McCain by double digits in Minnesota -- and that enthusiasm for Obama might carry over and affect the Senate race.
Coleman filed his candidacy for reelection today and released an atypical commercial touting his accomplishments in the Senate. Coleman knows a traditional unsuccessful incumbent message will not be successful with the environment for Republicans being the way it is. In the ad, Coleman reaches back in a funny way to remind voters that while mayor of Saint Paul, he pushed to bring a professional hockey team to the city in 2000. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_hvPbW0jsw
Coleman has the early fundraising edge having brought in $15.4 million to Franken's $11.5 million in what could be the most expensive Senate contest this year.
Minnesota may not be the center of the political universe, but it will be in the spotlight in a unique way this fall with the honor of hosting the GOP convention and the possibility that the top Republican in the state, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, may be selected as Sen. John McCain's running-mate.
Franken was knocked off message a bit after it was reveled the former humorist's companies owed $70,000 in back taxes in 17 states. Republicans point to that problem as a sign Franken's not serious. Coleman has been dealing with the revelation that he rents a room in Capitol Hill townhome owned by a well-connect GOP corporate consultant for only $600 per month. Democrats argue that rental arrangement proves Coleman is too cozy with powerful interests.