By: Tom Dennis, Grand Forks Herald, April 22

Minnesota is split. The U.S. Senate race between liberal Al Franken and conservative Norm Coleman came down to a few hundred hotly disputed votes.

And in the most recent election, Minnesota switched from a Republican governor to a Democrat at the same time as it transferred majorities of both legislative houses in the other direction, from Democrats to Republicans. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature have been at a standoff ever since.

But there is an exception: a statewide politician with some of the highest approval ratings in the country; an official whose re-election prospects are so strong, there was some question whether the opposing party would field a candidate at all.

She is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and her 61 percent approval ratings in January means she draws unusual support from Republicans as well as Democrats and independents.

Klobuchar is living proof that American politics doesn’t have to be as polarized and gridlocked as it currently is. There are leaders who command something close to supermajority support — the level of support that will be vital if America ever is to solve its budget and other stubborn problems.

And Klobuchar’s not alone. One of her counterparts on the Republican side is North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven — for a time the most popular governor in America, then a successful Senate candidate who won in 2010 with 76 percent of the vote.

Last week, Hoeven hosted Klobuchar on a visit to North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

How refreshing it was to see two senators put partisan differences aside for a cordial, good-natured and clearly productive visit.

And how intriguing it is to speculate on the Midwesterners’ future in the U.S. Senate.

Hoeven and Klobuchar both are comparative Senate newcomers today, but they won’t be for long. Barring twists such as the appointment of Klobuchar to the U.S. Supreme Court — entirely possible, if President Barack Obama wins a second term — they’ll likely serve multiple terms.

They’ll gain seniority, and sooner or later, they’ll be considered for Senate leadership.

What would the Senate be like if one of the two, Hoeven or Klobuchar, served as majority leader and the other got elected to the minority leader post?

This much is clear: There’d be a lot less emphasis on blocking the other party and on making opponents look bad, two of Congress’ most poisonous traits. Neither Klobuchar nor Hoeven work that way.

Instead, there’d be a lot more time spent on crafting bipartisan agreements and finding acceptable places to compromise. A Senate that elected Hoeven and/or Klobuchar to leadership would be expecting exactly that.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, the U.S. Senate experienced something of a golden age, with senators investigating President Nixon’s involvement in Watergate and passing civil-rights and other major laws. Are those days gone for good?

Don’t be so sure.