Cheney joins parade of politicians vowing November victory in Minnesota

Josh Verges

Vice President Dick Cheney predicted a strong Republican turnout in November on a campaign stop Monday in Minneapolis.

Cheney rallied Minnesota Republicans at a campaign fund-raiser at the Hilton Hotel and toured a restaurant in St. Paul.

With one week before the state’s Democrats choose their presidential candidate, Cheney vowed that President George W. Bush will carry the state in 2004. Bush lost to Al Gore by fewer than 60,000 votes here four years ago.

“We made a better showing here than any Republican had in a long time,” Cheney said to the 250-member crowd at the hotel’s ballroom. “This year we intend to do even better, and with your help we’re going to carry Minnesota.”

Tyler Richter said the College Republicans have strong support at 40 colleges across the state.

“We’re prepared for a really tough fight,” he said.

Audience members paid $1,000 to attend the event and expect to raise at least $250,000 for the Bush campaign.

Democrats are staging their own campaign events in Minnesota this week. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina visited Minnesota on Saturday and his wife, Elizabeth, followed him with state events on Sunday and Monday. Front-runner John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, will be in St. Paul for a rally at Macalester College on Wednesday evening.

Minnesota has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party, but this has been changing as Republicans now control the governor’s mansion and one of the state’s spots in the U.S. Senate.

Minnesota Republican Party spokesman Randy Wanke said this year’s election is the party’s best chance at winning the state since Richard Nixon’s bid in 1972, the last time a Republican presidential candidate carried Minnesota.

“This is the year that Minnesota is up for grabs,” Wanke said. “We are going to see a lot of activity” in the state from now through November.

After the fund-raiser, the Cheneys toured El Burrito Mercado, a recipient of federal small business loans, in St. Paul.

Approximately 50 people protested on streets across from the restaurant.

Javier Morillo, a political organizer for the Service Employees International Union, said that Republicans’ visits to minority communities are patronizing.

“We’re here because this administration makes these stops every four years,” he said. “It’s an insult to come here every election cycle.”

Morillo lives near the restaurant in St. Paul’s West Side, a historically immigrant-populated neighborhood, he said.

Morillo represents janitors and health-care workers. Bush’s policies have hit them the hardest, he said.

He called Cheney’s visit “a complete photo-op,” and said Republicans have come to El Burrito Mercado in the past.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty visited the brightly colored restaurant last year on a tour of minority-owned businesses.

“This (visit) is particularly egregious because no one has done more harm” to the community than the Bush administration, Morillo said.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.