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Kerry captures Minnesota
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Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Norm Coleman lamented a Bush loss in Minnesota, but said the state sapped some of Kerry's money. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

St. Paul, Minn. — Democratic activists gathered at a hotel in downtown Minneapolis could not celebrate the election as a whole. As the results trickled in, nervousness gave way to disappointment, but that was looking at the nationwide numbers.

In Minnesota, there was victory to claim after a campaign like no other in recent memory; eight visits by the president this year alone and the same number of campaign stops by Democratic challenger John Kerry, along with months of TV commercials.

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Image Stacy Paxton

"First of all let me say thank you so very, very much for all of your hard work. The great State of Minnesota is a blue state," state DFL Party Chairman Mike Erlandson announced early Wednesday morning at the podium in the ballroom.

Adam Miller was among the Democrats gathered in Minneapolis. He says it would have been a real disappointment had Minnesota not come through for Kerry.

"At least in Minnesota we had a great showing; look at the voter turn out, it was just phenomenal. That's something I think no one on any side, I haven't heard any final numbers yet but it's just I've heard up in the 80 to 90 percent in some precincts. I don't know what the precedent is, I mean in terms of that if you look back historically, but that's ... I think a lot of people would be very excited about that," he said.

The Kerry campaign's Minnesota spokeswoman, Stacy Paxton says she thinks Kerry ended up winning the state on three big issues.

"Minnesotans really responded to John Kerry's message -- his message about jobs, his message about health care and his message about what the mess was in Iraq and what his plans were to fix it. People really responded to that at the end and I believe a lot of moderates both Republicans and moderate Democrats broke our way at the end that maybe were undecided in a lot of the polls," she said.

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Image "A blue state"

KNOW Exit Polling conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool Survey, showed that the war in Iraq loomed as the major issue for Minnesota voters. 60 percent view the war as going somewhat or very badly.

It was a major issue for Bill Scatton of St. Paul.

"I was of the mind that it might not be a good time to change leadership during the middle of a war, and I was considering for the first time ever voting for a Republican. But then after actually watching George Bush in the first debate I decided that there wasn't any possibility that I could vote for him," he says.

For months Minnesota's top Republicans had been confidently predicting they would help deliver the state for President Bush. The message changed as the vote came in. Both Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Norm Coleman suggested one reason Kerry lost, could have been that he had to spent so much time and money in Minnesota to carry a state that not long ago was a "gimmee" for Democrats.

"It's too bad we didn't carry Minnesota, but we sure got a lot of that Kerry-Edwards money here and caused them to spend it here," Pawlenty said.

"We fought the battle here. John Kerry had to be here, had to be here again and again and again," echoed Coleman.

As Democrats wrapped things up early Wednesday morning, 5th District DFL Rep. Martin Sabo, who easily won re-election to his 14th term, urged supporters to begin looking ahead. "We have to get ready for two years from now and we got to bring the same commitment, the same intensity the same willingness to work together in place and ready to go for the gubernatorial race, Senate race and the state House and state Senate races two years from now," Sabo said.

Democratic leaders say they have not seen the party as united as it was for this election. They're hoping they can build on that cooperation to re-elect DFL Sen. Mark Dayton and capture the governor's office.

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