As Jesse Ventura announced he would not challenge Norm Coleman in the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race, two new polls were released revealing vastly different results.

Ventura, before Larry King’s national audience on CNN, stated he would not seek Coleman’s Senate seat, giving a variety of reasons along the way. Ventura’s fear of how such a campaign would affect his family – indicting the Minnesota press once again for how they treated his son during his gubernatorial reign – was the foremost reason he gave for staying out of the race. Ventura also suggested his disgust with politics generally – claiming he has no one to support in the presidential race and may not even vote. In the 30 minute interview, Ventura went on to attack, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, politicians who wish to stop illegal immigration, the media for covering the controversy involving Barack Obama’s former church, the Democrats for passing the FISA legislation last week, and, of course, George W. Bush and his ‘religious inspiration.’ In the end, Ventura stated he preferred a life of surfing, because “the ocean does not lie�? but his government does.

With Ventura out of the race, the path was clear for long-time friend Dean Barkley to jump in – which he did last night. Barkley was appointed by Ventura in 2002 to serve out the remainder of Paul Wellstone’s term prior to Coleman filling the seat in January 2003.

Two new polls of the country’s highest profile Senate race were released yesterday, yielding wildly different results. In Rasmussen’s July 10th poll of 500 likely voters, Franken led Coleman 44 to 42 percent, within the survey’s margin of error. This was the first time Franken had led in any poll since a mid-February Rasmussen survey. Franken has only led Coleman in 3 of 23 surveys dating back to February 2007.

In SurveyUSA’s July 11-13 poll of 641 registered voters, Coleman’s advantage was measured at 13 points – 52 to 39 percent. This marked Coleman’s largest lead since a May 2007 MPR poll which had Coleman up by 22 points. Coleman has now polled above 50 percent in three of the last four public surveys (the exception being the new Rasmussen survey).

In Ventura’s interview he stated he would not endorse either Coleman or Franken, though he did not offer any substantive critique of Franken’s policy positions. Ventura was perhaps already aware Barkley would enter the race and presumably will endorse his old friend at some point in the campaign.

Both Coleman and Franken will face primary challenges on September 9th – including perennial candidates Jack Shepard on the Republican side and Dick Franson and Ole Savoir on the DFL side. Priscilla Lord Farris, a St. Paul attorney, is expected to file papers to run as a DFL-er today. Three independence party candidates have also filed plus Charles Aldrich, a Libertarian.