Early campaigning brings Bush to St. Paul

Mary Stegmeir

Although the 2004 presidential election is more than a year away, Minnesota voters are already getting national attention.

Several Democratic and third- party hopefuls have visited the state to raise money and drum up support.

Last week President George W. Bush came to St. Paul and told approximately 600 guests at his $2,000-a-head fund-raiser he was “laying the groundwork for what is going to be a great national victory in November 2004.”

This early campaigning comes as no surprise to David Pogue, a political science instructor at the University’s Duluth campus. A close 2000 presidential election in Minnesota indicated the state might be losing its liberal leanings, he said.

If candidates in the 2004 race view Minnesota as a potential swing state, aggressive campaigning might soon be in full force across the state, Pogue said.

In the 2000 race Democratic nominee Al Gore brushed past Bush by a margin of two percentage points, indicating strong support for both major parties in Minnesota, according to CNN’s Web site.

“It’s a state that can go either way,” Pogue said. “Historically the line has been that Minnesota is a pretty reliable Democratic state, but I don’t think that is true anymore. Both the Republicans and the Democrats think they have a shot at taking Minnesota.”

Campus political group leaders said this fact makes their efforts more important.

Tyler Richter, chairman of the University’s College Republicans, said his group started organizing its campaign efforts in July.

“It’s going to be a tough battle, but it’s going to be one we can win,” he said.

The College Republicans hope to boost membership this year. Richter said the group will encourage its members to get involved in the campaign.

Voter registration, canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts will keep the group busy until Election Day, he said.

Andy Pomroy, a member of the DFL Party at the University, said although specific plans for presidential election campaigning will not come into place until next fall, the group is anticipating a tight race.

“Every indication right now points to a close election,” he said. “I’m still pretty confident that we’ll win the state with whoever the Democratic candidate is.”

Pomroy said he does not believe Minnesota is losing its Democratic edge. The pool of liberal voters is just more fractured than that of conservative voters, he said. He said vote totals show the state still leans more to the left.

Gore secured Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes with 48 percent of the vote in 2000. Bush followed with 46 percent. The Green Party’s Ralph Nader claimed 5 percent and the Reform Party’s Pat Buchanan received 1 percent.

Using the liberal-conservative divide, left-of-center harnessed 53 percent of the vote, while right-of- center took 47 percent.

Like the College Republicans, the University DFL group hopes to expand its membership base and educate other students about the political process, Pomroy said.

Aside from traditional campaign tactics, the group wants to use the Coffman Union theater to broadcast one of the nationally televised Democratic primary debates this fall, Pomroy said. Following the debate, they hope to organize a question-and-answer session with Minnesota Democratic campaign officials, he said.

Kellie Burriss, a College Green Party member, said although the University group has not officially organized its efforts, she is confident the Greens will make a strong showing on campus.

“The (2000) Nader campaign was really huge at the ‘U of M.’ I know that other progressive candidates have gained momentum on campus, too,” she said.

The group will be meeting this fall to cement their campaigning plans.

Burriss said she is confident the 2004 presidential race will get more students involved in campus political groups.

“Things like budget cuts leading to (increases) in tuition Ö affect us every single day,” she said. “(Involvement) in politics is one of the best ways to change what is going on.”