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Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington

The Inside Story of a Grassroots U.S. Senate Campaign

1995
Authors:

Dennis J. McGrath and Dane Smith

Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington

This engaging account of Wellstone’s campaign, written by two political reporters, provides a behind-the-scenes look at a memorable chapter in U.S. Senate campaign history, which saw a liberal college professor become the only Senate challenger to unseat an incumbent in 1990.

This engaging account of Wellstone’s campaign, written by two political reporters, provides a behind-the-scenes look at a memorable chapter in U.S. Senate campaign history, which saw a liberal college professor become the only Senate challenger to unseat an incumbent in 1990.

This is a book about progressive political energy and what it takes to overcome a plutocratic opponent's massive reelection apparatus and war chest. Wellstone and his energetic colleagues hurled smarts, sweat, and shoe leather against big money and its smooth slogans and won. All around the country, citizens who want a government of, by, and for the people can learn from this campaign and win against government of, by, and for the Exxons, General Motors, and DuPonts.

Ralph Nader

How did a fortysomething college professor and outspoken liberal activist manage to unseat from the Senate one of the nation’s most skillful politicians and money raisers? This engaging insiders' account of Paul Wellstone’s successful grassroots Senate campaign explains it all for you. Written by two political reporters for the Minneapolis StarTribune who covered the Wellstone campaign from its inception, Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington provides a revealing and evocative behind-the-scenes look at a memorable chapter in U.S. Senate campaign history.

When Paul Wellstone announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at an inner-city community center in early 1989, no one thought he had a chance. His opponent, Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz, was a popular politician and a celebrated master of the two most important skills of modern political campaigning, fundraising and television advertising. But to the surprise of many, Wellstone, a student of grassroots organizing techniques, succeeded in putting together a campaign that served as a harbinger and a model for the anti-establishment populism of the 1990s. He rode to an unbelievable victory as the only Senate challenger to defeat an incumbent that year.

Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington is must reading for anyone interested in American politics. It details the most stunning upset in Minnesota’s modern political history, and illustrates why Wellstone, whom Mother Jones magazine described as “the first 1960s radical elected to the U.S. Senate,” has become one of the Senate’s most notable, quotable, and controversial figures.

Awards

Minnesota Book Award winner

Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington

Dennis McGrath, on the promise that he would write nothing until after the election, was given unlimited access to the inner workings of the Wellstone campaign. He joined the Minneapolis StarTribune as a reporter in 1978 and is now the national/international editor.

Dane Smith, who had no contact with McGrath during the campaign, covered it from the outside on a daily basis for the Minneapolis StarTribune. He also has won awards for reporting and has worked for newspapers in the Twin Cities since 1977.

Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington

This is a book about progressive political energy and what it takes to overcome a plutocratic opponent's massive reelection apparatus and war chest. Wellstone and his energetic colleagues hurled smarts, sweat, and shoe leather against big money and its smooth slogans and won. All around the country, citizens who want a government of, by, and for the people can learn from this campaign and win against government of, by, and for the Exxons, General Motors, and DuPonts.

Ralph Nader

A lively, firsthand account of a remarkable campaign, as well as an accurate description of a new democratic left, and what it thinks and how it works. The authors reveal the potency of real grass roots politics, antiestablishment themes, and a message based on a consistent ideology.

Vin Weber, Senior Fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and former U.S. Representative

A modern day Mr. Smith goes to Washington and McGrath and Smith tell the exceptional story of how Paul Wellstone beat the big money odds. This book provides a glimpse into how a candidate not beholden to big money interests can speak his mind and capture the hearts to millions of citizens. It provides a clarion call to eliminate the domination of big money in our politics.

Ellen S. Miller, Executive Director Center for Responsive Politics

There was no more fascinating Senate election in 1990 than in Minnesota, where an unusual-and unexpected-Democratic nominee became the only challenger to unseat an incumbent senator. How did Paul Wellstone do it? And who is Paul Wellstone, a man who fits no casting director's stereotype of a U.S. senator? Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington is a lively, interesting and compelling tale of American politics in the Nineties-o-ne especially timely given both the stunning 1994 elections, and the look ahead to Wellstone's reelection bid in 1996.

Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute

Political junkies will gorge themselves on Star Tribune reporters McGrath and Smith’s inside look at Paul Wellstone and his 1990 campaign cum crusade. The authors’ description of events are first-rate. The book teems with the behind-the-scenes stuff newspapers often don’t get before elections. Either way, this book offers a portrait of Wellstone free of campaign rhetoric.

Twin Cities Reader

Will the now senior Minnesota senator’s brand of politics sell in what appears to be a more conservative 1996 and beyond? McGrath and Smith are not in the prediction business. Nonetheless this breezy, sometimes gossipy, yet always provocative glimpse into our suddenly ancient past suggests that any future opponent would be wise not to sell the diminutive ex-professor short.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

The most comprehensive chronicle to date of this senator’s populist rise from political science to Washington politician. This is a timely book in light of reports that undercover cameras are now filming Wellstone’s every move in hopes of a slip-up to use against him in the 1996 election.

City Pages

The best moments are when we see Wellstone up close on the campaign trail. Those who love their politics Minnesota-style will want to hop on the green bus and come along for the ride.

Rochester Post-Bulletin

There’s a new book that today’s high-school students in Minnesota and Wisconsin should read before they graduate. It’s about on of the most extraordinary political campaigns we’ve ever had in the region, the 1990 U.S. Senate race between the Republican incumbent, Rudy Boschwitz, and Democratic challenger Paul Wellstone, a political-science professor from Carleton College. Will amuse, surprise and encourage even the most cynical youngster. This is a story about what extremely hard work, passion, commitment and a bit of luck can accomplish. . . . not just a story for admirers of Paul Wellstone. . . . a deeply optimistic, encouraging story. It’s history that today’s high-school students have lived through, and it offers a lesson we all need to hear: Money and power do not always prevail.

Joe Nathan, Saint Paul Pioneer Press

This tale of Professor Wellstone takes us to a faraway time and place in which an unabashedly liberal Democrat, starting with no money and no party leadership n his side, won a U.S. Senate seat from a popular Republican incumbent. Wellstone reminds us that American elections are turning on the decisions of a ‘volatile middle’ that is not ideological but is anti-establishment.

Independent Weekly (Raleigh-Durham)

A revealing and evocative behind-the-scenes look at a memorable chapter in U.S. Senate campaign history.

Midwest Book Review