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Edwards visits Minnesota, one day after Bush
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Vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke to an enthusiastic audience in Maple Grove Sunday, touting the qualifications of his running mate, Democrat John Kerry. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
Minnesota demonstrated its battleground status over the weekend by attracting campaign visits by both Republican president George W. Bush and Democratic vice presidential hopeful John Edwards. Both candidates used the recent debates as ammunition for their positions. Bush spoke to an estimated 17,000 supporters at a park in Chanhassen Saturday, while Edwards spoke to an estimated 7,000 people at Maple Grove High School Sunday.

Maple Grove, Minn. — Bush and Edwards focused on familiar themes during their weekend speeches -- homeland security, the war in Iraq, the economy and health care. But the first two presidential debates and last week's vice presidential debate have given them fresh material for attacks. Edwards told a crowd in Maple Grove that Bush asked an important question during the most recent debate on Friday night.

"He said, 'Is my time up yet?'"

Edwards said the debate allowed his running mate, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, to lay out a positive plan for Iraq, health care and jobs.

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"And come November, we're going to answer George Bush's question for him. The American people are going to say, 'George Bush, your time up, and it is time for President John Kerry," Edwards said to loud applause from the crowd.

Just 24 hours before, another group of Minnesotans heard a very different interpretation. Bush told supporters in Chanhassen that Friday night's debate highlighted Kerry's flip-flops.

"With a straight face, he said, 'I've only had one position on Iraq.' I could barely contain myself!" said Bush. "He must think we're on a different planet."

Bush said Kerry promised during the debate that he wouldn't raise taxes on anyone earning less than $200,000 a year. Bush said in order for Kerry to keep that promise, he would have to break all of his other promises to fund various government programs.

Bush praised his running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney, and updated his common stump speech joke about Cheney's receding hairline.

"I thought he did a great job in his debate. I admit it, he didn't have the waviest hair on the platform there. Course, I didn't pick him for his hair. I picked him for his experience and sound judgment. I picked him because he can get the job done for the American people," said Bush.

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Edwards also mentioned his debate with Cheney, and jabbed Cheney for misstating during the debate that the two hadn't met until that night.

"Three years ago, we sat together, we talked, we shook hands. On Tuesday night, we sat together, we shook hands and we talked," said Edwards. "I don't know about you, but I got a feeling he's not going to forget he was there on Tuesday night."

Edwards highlighted his ticket's plans to bring more countries into the effort to rebuild Iraq, halt the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and help college students with tuition assistance. He said he and Kerry want to allow the re-importation of lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada and fund more stem cell research.

Edwards spoke to about 5,000 people in a packed, steamy high school gymnasium, then made his way to an overflow area, where another couple thousand people were waiting to hear him.

His blue shirt soaked in sweat, Edwards told the overflow crowd they have the ability to change the direction of the country.

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"You can create respect for America again around the world. You can create a country where once again, we treat everybody the same, where everybody has a chance to do well -- not just a few people. And at the end of the day, that's what this is about," said Edwards.

Standing just a few feet from Edwards was Faith Zwemke of Lindstrom, who drove 40 miles to see him. She said she agrees with Kerry and Edwards on nearly every issue.

"It's absolutely incredible how Bush has misled us, lied to us, brought us into war that we didn't need, and undermining education with No Child Left Behind, and not good on health care. I just don't see where there's any contest," said Zwemke.

Zwemke said she thinks Kerry will win Minnesota "by a thread."

But in Chanhassen, Bush predicted he would carry the state. Among the crowd there was Jeff Kolb of Maple Grove, who said he believes Bush has a clear vision for the country.

"Growing the economy by having a good tax policy, having good jobs for Americans and keeping us safe," said Kolb.

Kolb said he doesn't think Kerry and Edwards have any really good ideas for the future.

The battle for Minnesota voters will continue this week, with a planned stop in Rochester by Vice President Cheney on Tuesday. The Kerry campaign says Kerry will likely return to Minnesota soon.

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