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Laura Bush campaigns for the president
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First lady Laura Bush speaks on behalf of her husband, President George W. Bush, during a rally in St. Paul Friday. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
First Lady Laura Bush told a cheering crowd in St. Paul Friday afternoon her husband has worked hard for all Americans since becoming president, and it's time for Americans to help re-elect him and Vice President Cheney. Laura Bush's stop in Minnesota was part of a two-day swing through three states considered to be battlegrounds in this fall's presidential election.

St. Paul, Minn. — About 1,700 people filled a ballroom in downtown St. Paul's River Center, enthusiastically welcoming Laura Bush to Minnesota.

"This is a great crowd," Mrs. Bush said. "I'm so happy to be here in Minnesota, to meet with all of you and to talk with you about why it's so important to re-elect George W. Bush as president."

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Image Robin Mackell

Mrs. Bush spoke for a little less than 20 minutes, praising the president's tax cuts, his efforts to reform education, health care, and job training.

Laura Bush also talked about the administration's war on terrorism, and said progress is being made in Afghanistan and in Iraq. She told the crowd since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she's seen President Bush's courage and character guide his actions.

"I'm so proud of my husband for recognizing the new realities of the world, and for taking action to meet them," she said.

Mrs. Bush urged supporters to work on behalf of the Bush-Cheney ticket to deliver Minnesota to the Republicans in November's election.

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Image DFL leader

"Please talk to your neighbors and friends, sign up here with the campaign in Minnesota, and make phone calls or go door to door bringing the president's message to the voters," said Mrs. Bush. "Everything you do to reach the voters and get them to the polls will be a huge help to the president's campaign."

The first lady has campaigned frequently for her husband. But the trip to Minnesota, preceded by an appearance in Ohio earlier Friday and in Pennsylvania Thursday, marks her first multi-day campaign swing this year.

Like Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania are considered battleground states in the race for the White House.

Political analysts say Laura Bush can help improve the president's image with women, and will be an important part of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

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Image Selling Bush buttons

Polls show women are generally less likely than men to support George W. Bush. Robin Mackell, a north suburban resident, says she thinks Laura Bush could help change that.

"If she gets out there more, I think it would he helpful for women and soften his image. Of course, I am independent but still would vote for Bush-Cheney," Mackell said. "I don't agree on every issue, but I think they're the best on the ticket as opposed to Kerry." Prior to the first lady's appearance, a few dozen DFLers staged their own rally in opposition to Bush and in support of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

State DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson says despite an uptick in hiring the past few months, the nation has lost more jobs than it's gained under President Bush. He says Bush has diminished the country's standing in the world. He says Democrats are ready to work to defeat him.

"Things are going great for John Kerry. His message of strong leadership, strong economy at home, strong international affairs is one that's being picked up and being engaged by voters at the grassroots level," Erlandson said. "We're excited to have our grassroots plans running in full steam, and I think that when all things are settled that we will have outworked the Republicans."

President Bush was last in the Twin Cities in April. Kerry was here earlier in June. Both are expected back in the coming months.

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