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GOP rallies in waning days of campaign
By William Wilcoxen
Minnesota Public Radio
October 31, 2002


While Minnesota's DFLers were formalizing Walter Mondale's Senate candidacy, candidates from other parties were getting back on the campaign trail. Major party candidates took a four-day hiatus from campaigning following the plane crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone. But politicking resumed in earnest yesterday. Republican candidates visited various parts of the state during the day and then converged for a joint political rally in St. Paul.

Second District Rep. Mark Kennedy told the gathering his 155 vote win over David Minge two years ago should serve as a reminder to get people to vote.

Norm Coleman
Tim Pawlenty
Rep. Jim Ramstad
Rep. Mark Kennedy
John Kline

(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

As a throng of Republican faithful gathered at O'Gara's Bar, state Republican Party Chairman Ron Eibensteiner put his tongue in his cheek and took to the stage.

"I'd like to make an announcement, all right? So that there's no confusion. This is a political rally," he said.

Eibensteiner's jab followed a day of Republican complaints that Democrats had turned the previous evening's memorial service for Paul Wellstone into a festival of partisan politics. While waiting for his own party's event to begin, Eibensteiner said the service for Wellstone amounted to a campaign rally that may have backfired.

"It didn't look like a memorial service to me. And I think it's turned off a lot of people. I'm not going to comment on whether it was appropriate or not, I'm just telling you that based on what I hear -- the talk radio and the chatter out in the streets -- I think people are taking a good look at this and saying 'You know what? Who's going to be the better governor? Who's going to be the better senator?'" he said.

Shortly before the DFL selected former Vice President Mondale to run in Wellstone's stead, Republican candidates filled a stage to hail the top of their ticket.

Third District Congressman Jim Ramstad introduced what became the theme for the evening, a likely the remainder of the campaign - that the party's Senate and gubernatorial candidates are oriented toward the future rather than the past.

"Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty are the candidates with new ideas, new vigor, new energy, new compassion for Minnesota and for America. And they need your help now more than ever. Will you help us? Will you help us?" Ramstad said.

John Kline is locked in a close race with incumbent DFLer Bill Luther.
(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

When Norm Coleman took the stage he never mentioned Walter Mondale, but he was clearly contrasting himself with the Democratic elder statesman. Coleman said no one should consider themselves entitled to a Senate seat. He underscored the effort he's put into his campaign, describing how he was on the campaign trail before the sun that morning and making ample use of the verb "work."

"This is not about holding a place. This is not about national party politics. This is about working, working for the people of Minnesota for their future. If you're up in the Falls or you're in Owatonna -- anywhere in this state -- you want to make sure there's somebody working for you. Tirelessly. Day and night. Day and night, somebody who has worked for you for years as we have worked, as I have worked," Coleman told the rally.

Coleman, who converted from the DFL while mayor of St. Paul, says Republicans understand that holding taxes down is the key to job growth. He painted attempts at solving problems through bureaucracy as a discredited leftover from the Great Society.

"The age of big government was over a long time ago. A long time ago. It's certainly not going to be re-created in the 21st century. We're not going back to that. That's not what folks want. That's not what we're about. That concept was dead a long time ago."

State Rep. Tim Pawlenty used a similar theme in distinguishing his gubernatorial campaign from that of DFLer Roger Moe.

"This election, like all elections, is about where do we go from here? And I'll tell you what it's not about. It's not about the leadership and ideas of 30 and 40 years ago," Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty also noted a newspaper poll showing him with a slight lead over Moe and bigger leads over the Independence Party's Tim Penny and the Green Party's Ken Pentel.

"This is an election about the future, as all elections are. And I think Roger Moe got elected 32 years ago. I was in grade school," he said.

The Star Tribune poll also showed Mondale leading Coleman by eight points. Party Chairman Eibensteiner says Republicans hope to arrange debates between Coleman and Mondale, to help Minnesotans see the differences between the candidates.

The party is also bracing itself for the possibility that the Senate race may be decided in a courtroom long after electiondDay. The DFL has already complained about the state's plan to submit supplemental ballots for the Senate race. Eibensteiner told the rally he decided against inviting Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer to the event because she had more pressing business.

"I thought... she'd better stay at the Capitol working hard. Because the Democrats want to steal this election through court lawsuits," Eibensteiner said.

Eibensteiner says the prospect of counting supplemental ballots by hand has prompted the party to step up its call for volunteers to help at polling places on election day.

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