Bush lauds Coleman at rally

ROCHESTER, Minn. – President George W. Bush spoke at a Republican rally in Rochester on Friday, seeking to boost support for U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman and other Republicans.

The visit was Bush’s fourth to Minnesota, as the White House tries to unseat Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone and give Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate. More than 50 anti-war protesters and Wellstone supporters gathered across the street to voice disapproval.

“There’s no doubt that what’s best for Minnesota and what’s best for America is that Norm Coleman become the next United States senator,” Bush said.

Bush also praised Minnesota’s Republican congressional candidates and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tim Pawlenty.

“You’ve got a good man running for governor here in Minnesota,” the president said of Pawlenty. “He’s a person who can get things done; he’s proved that in the state House.”

Bush said Pawlenty will set high standards for state schools, challenge the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and hold schools accountable by measuring their progress.

“You better have a governor who’s willing to challenge the schools that can’t teach and won’t change,” Bush said. “No child should be left behind in Minnesota or elsewhere.”

Early last year, Pawlenty announced his plan to seek the Republican Senate nomination, but a phone conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney persuaded the state House majority leader to seek the governorship instead and allow Norm Coleman to run as the GOP Senate candidate.

Bush praised Coleman’s eight-year tenure as mayor of St. Paul.

“He kept taxes down and he revitalized the city,” Bush said. “He’s got his priorities straight.”

Bush also supported Coleman’s view of the government’s economic role, which Coleman presented in his economic plan Oct. 14.

“The role of government is to create an environment in which the small business can flourish, in which the producer can find a market, in which the entrepreneur can make a living,” Bush said.

The president also said Coleman will support him in making permanent the current nine-year federal tax cut.

“It’s essential for job creation, it’s essential for job growth that you have a United States senator who will join me in making the tax relief a permanent part of the tax plan,” Bush said.

Coleman will also support Medicare reform, including improving health care access and providing prescription-drug coverage, the president said.

“Medicare is old, and medicine has changed,” Bush said. “Medicine has evolved, and Medicare hasn’t.”

The president also said the nation is making progress in the war on terrorism and that Congress has united behind confronting the threat posed by Iraq.

“We call upon Saddam Hussein to disarm like he said he would,” Bush said. “We call upon the United Nations to show us if this is an organization that can keep the peace or whether it’s like one of its predecessors, the League of Nations.”

Bush said he will continue to press Congress to create a Cabinet-level homeland security department and increase defense spending.

Protests for peace

approximately 70 protesters demonstrated against the president’s Iraq policy across the street from the Rochester Community and Technical College, where Republicans held their rally.

Amid signs reading “Drop Bush, Not Bombs” and chants of “no war for oil,” demonstrator Kati Poier of Rochester said she was protesting “aggression on other countries, even bad ones.

“We want peaceful solutions for world problems,” Poier said.

Protester Teresa Tolmie said she didn’t want the nation to go to war with Iraq, adding that there is at least as much public support for Wellstone as Coleman.

But Bill Michaelis of Rolling Stone, Minn., said Bush’s speech was “wonderful” and would rally additional support for Coleman.

“If all the people here today would vote, we’d be in,” he said.

Tyrene Foley of Rochester called Bush’s speech a “job well done.

“It was awesome, very heartfelt,” she said. “I cried a lot.”

An impromptu counter-demonstration began on the other side of the street after Bush’s speech, as Republicans leaving the rally chanted, “USA! USA!” while protesters shouted, “We want peace.”

Tim Pope of Apple Valley asked demonstrators why none of them displayed U.S. flags.

“Did you get your welfare checks today?” he shouted to protesters.

Poll: Wellstone ahead

with approximately two weeks left in the campaign, Wellstone holds a six-point lead over Coleman, with 47 percent of the vote to the Republican’s 41 percent, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll released Saturday.

“We’re gratified by the numbers, but we know it’s still close,” said Wellstone campaign manager Jeff Blodgett.

Independence Party candidate Jim Moore received 4 percent support, while the Green Party’s Ray Tricomo drew less than 1 percent.

The telephone poll surveyed 1,048 likely voters last week and has a 3 percentage point margin of error at 95 percent confidence.

Political roundup

the Star Tribune poll also showed Pawlenty and Moe each drawing 29 percent of likely voters, while Independence Party candidate Tim Penny received 27 percent. Green candidate Ken Pentel took 3 percent.

nationally known feminist Gloria Steinem campaigned with Wellstone and DFL gubernatorial candidate Roger Moe on Friday, visiting several metro-area college campuses.

former President Bill Clinton was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame as an honorary member Saturday, the first non-black the organization has recognized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Andrew Pritchard covers state politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]