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Big crowds, big bucks for Kerry in Minnesota stop
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In addition to rallying the faithful, Kerry appealed to undecided voters, saying his proposals have more to do with common sense than political ideology. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says a fundraising stop in Minneapolis Monday night pushed his campaign over the $80 million mark. Kerry appeared at the Minneapolis Convention Center where he energized Minnesota's DFL base and reached out to independent voters.

Minneapolis, Minn. — John Kerry took part in three fundraisers at the Minneapolis Convention Center; two small events and what was billed as a main gala gathering attended by more than 1,000 supporters, most of them paying $75 each to hear from the Massachusetts senator. Students got in for $35.

"We're here to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush administration. That's what this is about," he declared.

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Image Anti-Kerry protest

Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton introduced Kerry to the cheering crowd. Kerry repeatedly referenced the late Sen. Paul Wellstone as he called for universal health care, rolling back the Bush tax cuts and spending more on education, health care and job creation.

"This is time to do what Paul Wellstone would do and loved to do. This is time to go out and knock on doors and talk to people and organize and build the great grassroots movement we've ever had in our party and in our country." he said.

In addition to rallying the faithful, Kerry appealed to undecided voters, saying his proposals have more to do with common sense than political ideology.

"I want to talk to non-Bush Republicans and to independents and others who are people of good intent, good mind who are looking for a different direction in our nation and I believe that if you really stand back, take away the rhetoric, take away the labels; obviously we stand for something as Democrats and we're proud of that but we stand for our country," he said.

Kerry accused the Bush administration of failing conservatives on issues including deficit spending, civil liberties and the separation of church and state.

The Democrat also repeatedly brought up the situation in Iraq and accused President Bush of unnecessarily rushing to war.

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Image Campaigning on the East Side

"I believe that we deserve and need a president of the United States who understands that the United States of America never goes to war because it wants to. We only go to war because we have to and that's the standard of this nation."

Kerry called for less dependence on foreign oil and he said the US needs to bolster its leadership in science.

A couple of dozen supporters of President Bush rallied outside of the Convention Center, carrying pro-Bush signs and signs mocking the president's Democratic challenger.

Tom Schwieters called Kerry "desperate to win Minnesota" and predicted, come November, it will be Republicans celebrating success in the state.

"I don't think he really planned on having to come here. I think he just assumed that you know they would take the state like they always take the state and I think he's been seeing more and more that they've actually got some work to do," he said.

Democrats left the main fundraiser fired up. Joan Ahrens from Chanhassen called Kerry's message "inclusive" and said the Massachusetts senator will draw in the much sought after swing voters.

"I think people realize that what has been going on in the last few years isn't working and I think people are looking for new choices and somebody that's willing to step up to the plate and make hard decisions."

Local Kerry campaign officials had said they expected their two fundraisers would bring in about $500,000. On stage Kerry said that figure would be closer to $1 million. It was unclear whether the candidate was including money from a separate Democratic National Committee fundraiser Monday night.

This latest Kerry visit is his third to the state as a presidential candidate. President Bush was at the Minneapolis Convention Center addressing community college administrators last Monday, prior to attending a Republican National Committee fundraiser in Edina.

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