Bush stumps for Coleman in 11th hour MN campaign visit

Andrew Pritchard

Calling the facility “the house that Norm built,” President George W. Bush praised Republican U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman on Sunday in front of thousands of supporters at St. Paul’s Xcel Center.

“The future of Minnesota rests with Norm Coleman,” Bush said.

In his fifth visit to the state during the campaign season, Bush urged Minnesotans to participate in Tuesday’s elections.

“Even though your state is still in mourning, I’m here to remind people of all political parties that you have a duty to vote,” he said.

Bush drew laughter from the crowd when he added that, once citizens went into the voting booth, he had a few suggestions.

“The best candidate for the future of Minnesota is your next United States senator, Norm Coleman,” he said.

Bush also praised Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota’s Republican representatives and House candidates in his half-hour speech.

He also said Coleman ran a unifying campaign and avoided political name-calling.

“There are a lot of people who may not call themselves Republicans who’ve been impressed as I have with the nature of the campaign Norm Coleman has run,” Bush said.

The president praised Coleman’s policies during his eight years as St. Paul’s mayor and said Coleman helped the city by keeping taxes low, creating jobs and helping small businesses.

“The role of government is to create an environment in which small businesses can grow to be big businesses,” he said.

Bush also spoke about the war on terrorism and said he wanted Coleman in the Senate to provide additional support for a Department of Homeland Security.

“I appreciate the fact that he’s a cold-eyed realist,” Bush said of Coleman. “I appreciate the fact that he sees the world the way it is – not the way we hope it would be.”

The president said the nation would continue to insist Iraq comply with U.N. resolutions and will not give up on the war against terrorism.

“We love the idea that people can worship freely in America,” he said. “We love the idea that people can speak their minds. We love the free press and we’re not going to change.”

Outside the arena, approximately 200 protesters chanted and displayed signs criticizing Bush, particularly for his position on military action against Iraq.

Demonstrator Bill Vigneri said he was protesting “Bush even coming anywhere near here.”

Vigneri said polls are inaccurately showing how many Americans support using force against Iraq.

“If they say it on TV enough, people believe it,” he said.

New York schoolteacher Kim Lane, originally from Minneapolis, said she came back to protest in honor of Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was killed Oct. 25 in a plane crash.

“He was one of the few people who spoke up and fought for the common person,” she said.

Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Ray Tricomo announced Sunday that he planned to attend the protest.

“It is my duty as a patriotic American to tell you that I do not support his president, nor do I support his policies,” Tricomo said in a written statement.

Conflicting polls

two polls published Sunday reached exactly opposite conclusions about who the Senate race frontrunner is.

A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll of 639 adults showed Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale leading Coleman, 46 percent to 41 percent, within a 3.2 percentage point margin of error.

However, a poll by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio of 625 registered voters showed Coleman in the lead, with 47 percent, over Mondale, who drew 41 percent, within the 4 percentage point margin of error.

The Pioneer Press reported that its editors and the Star Tribune’s took the unusual step of sharing their results before publication after learning of the conflicting Senate findings.

The two papers also split their Senate endorsements, with the Pioneer Press for Coleman and the Star Tribune supporting Mondale.

In the governor’s race, both polls found Republican Tim Pawlenty in the lead, followed by Democrat Roger Moe, Independence Party candidate Tim Penny and the Green Party’s Ken Pentel.

The Pioneer Press poll found Pawlenty drawing 36 percent support, with Moe obtaining 32 percent, Penny 16 percent and Pentel 2 percent.

Pawlenty, speaking at Sunday’s rally before Bush arrived, drew cheers when he announced the poll results.

“We’re in position to win this race, but it’s not about just winning,” he said. “It’s about winning so we can make a difference in people’s lives and improve quality of life for the people of Minnesota.”