After months of stoking speculation, former Gov. Jesse Ventura, IP-Minn., finally put it to rest last night.
He will not run for U.S. Senate this year.
He made the announcement on CNN's Larry King Live. Minnesota Public Radio invited three voters to watch the announcement together, and recorded their reactions.
We found a Democrat, a Republican and an independent, who agreed to spend a couple hours on a precious summer evening witnessing what might have been a turning point in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race.
Marguerite Krause is a solid Democrat, supporting DFL-endorsed candidate Al Franken. Avonelle Lovhaug is faithful Republican, backing incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman. And Jeremy Bierlien, our independent, isn't crazy about either Franken or Coleman.
“I found surfing to be much more honorable than the Senate.”Jesse Ventura
"I am the classic undecided that shows up in every poll," he said. "I have been waiting for something to fall out of the sky in the Senate race."
Bierlein wasn't sure Ventura was what he's been waiting for. He voted for Ventura last time around, but wasn't thrilled with how Ventura conducted himself as governor. But Bierlein said he'd keep an open mind, and he hoped Ventura would get in, if only to shake things up.
Lovhaug, the Republican, was ambivalent. But a part of her wanted Ventura to get in, too, because she thought he might siphon votes from Franken.
"I think it splits the we're-unhappy-with-everything-we-want-something-different vote," she said.
And Krause, the Democrat, hoped Ventura wouldn't run for that very same reason.
At 8 p.m., CNN began the fanfare: "Tonight's the night," Larry King intoned. "Jesse Ventura: Will he run for the United States Senate?"
King said right up front he wasn't going to put that question to Ventura right away.
"Before we get to the question of the day, Jesse, this is called a tease."
And Ventura, ever the showman, was more than willing to be a tease.
"Trust me, I know how TV works, Larry. We'll take it right to the bottom of the hour," Ventura said. "It'll be the last thing we do."
"No, it won't be the last thing we do. In fact, it will be in the next couple of minutes," King said, trying retain control of his show.
And as King threw to the first commercial break, Ventura certainly had our three voters fooled.
"I think he's in," Bierlein said "What does he have to lose?"
"He certainly looks like he's waiting to say yes," Krause concurred.
And Lovhaug made it unanimous: "Yeah, I think he's going to run, too."
After the ads, King and Ventura kept the suspense alive for a few more minutes, but Ventura finally admitted he'd decided not to run. He's spent part of the last six years enjoying the sun and surf in Mexico, and he said it wasn't worth it to leave that life behind, expose his family to more media scrutiny and go to Washington.
"It came down to almost this: surfing versus the Senate," Ventura said. "And I found surfing to be much more honorable than the Senate for the next six years, because the ocean doesn't lie to you. The waves don't lie to you. My government does lie to me today."
Lovhaug, the Republican, found it anti-climactic. But, they all agreed with Bierlein. It was classic Ventura.
"He is, and always will be, a consummate entertainer."
Marguerite Krause, the Democrat, was relieved.
"I'm happy that he's going to stay on the sidelines somewhere, surfing in Mexico," she said. "Or, by all means, let him go out there and voice his opinion and stir things up, but not as a candidate."
But Bierlein was disappointed. He wasn't sure he'd have voted for Ventura a second time, but he thought Ventura would have raised important issues.
"I think we're going to end up with a campaign that's largely on sound bites and more on electability or 'how close are you to Bush?'" Bierlein said. "Those are questions that are going to get debated, not the deficit, not immigration, not the big issues."
Bierlein, who's politically independent, says he's more inclined to vote for Coleman than Franken. But he's interested to learn more about Priscilla Lord Faris. The attorney and daughter of former federal judge Miles Lord declared Monday that she'll challenge Franken in a DFL primary in September.