Launching the first of what's expected to be a barrage of ads from both sides, Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman hit the airwaves with a warm, fuzzy message intended to reintroduce him to Minnesotans.

Titled "Working Together," the brief ad features an earnest Coleman in an open-necked shirt, talking about "focus on a shared vision." Without naming DFL opponent Al Franken, Coleman draws a distinction between what he characterizes as those who build up and those who tear down.

"It's not good enough just to criticize, not good enough to tear something down," Coleman says in the ad. "The business of serving the people is ... not just fighting about it, but doing something about it."

In an example of how aggressive the contest is expected to be, DFL Party staffers were at the news conference to pass out press releases that noted Coleman's sizable donations from big business even before Coleman's people could pass out their own releases on the ad.

Asked about business donations during the news conference, Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan pointed out that Franken had gotten the bulk of his money from out-of-state.

Franken, who clinched his party's endorsement on Saturday, offered his introductory ad in January, when he featured the praises of his fourth-grade teacher.

In Wednesday's ad, Sheehan said, Coleman wanted to highlight what he said was a record of bipartisan achievement.

Franken and DFLers have said that Coleman has steadily crept toward the center after a track record of siding with President Bush on most issues early in his first term.

Coleman has said while he has spent most of his life in public service, Franken spent that time as a comic and satirist.

The new ad, available on YouTube, is expected to run several weeks on network and cable TV stations across the state.

Rhetoric likely to heat up

Franken and Coleman have been exceptionally critical of one another and the rhetoric is expected to grow even harsher in coming months.

On Wednesday Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr accused Coleman of "using the campaign checks his corporate backers wrote him to run ads claiming he's working for Minnesota. It's business-as-usual for the Special Interest Senator."

Sheehan on Wednesday characterized the race as "difficult and challenging" and said the spending could reach as high as $15 million apiece, not counting the special interest groups that will weigh in on behalf of both candidates.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288