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West Central Tribune - Pawlenty Hits Campaign Trail with Coleman During Willmar Stop

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Location: Willmar, MN


West Central Tribune - Pawlenty Hits Campaign Trail with Coleman During Willmar Stop

By Linda Vanderwerf

The endorsement was personal as well as political when Gov. Tim Pawlenty introduced U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman Wednesday morning.

The state's top Republican office holders have been on a tour across Minnesota this week to campaign for Coleman's re-election to a second six-year term in the Senate.

Pawlenty praised Coleman for his public service and his understanding of the issues facing the state and the nation.

"I've known him for a long time; he's got a good heart," Pawlenty said.

The speakers took turns standing on a chair in front of the counter in a packed Northern Grounds coffee shop in downtown Willmar. It was the only way the crowd could see and hear them.

Kandiyohi County Republican co-chair Rollie Nissen estimated that more than 125 people were in the shop.

Coleman faces Democrat Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley in the Nov. 4 election. The battle has been hard-fought, and many polls indicate that Coleman and Franken are locked in a statistical dead heat.

Coleman was elected to the Senate in 2002 and had previously served as mayor of St. Paul and as a prosecutor for the Minnesota attorney general's office. Franken is a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer and has written several best-selling books. Barkley has run for the Senate before and served briefly in the Senate in late 2002, when Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed him after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Coleman spoke about changes that are needed to deal with the nation's struggling economy. He did not mention Barkley during his talk and used Franken's name only a few times.

Calling himself an optimist, he said, "Minnesotans are good at dealing with adversity. … We can handle this, it's in our DNA."

Coleman said he expected that the people who contributed to the downturn would be held accountable. He also expected to see the federal government institute spending caps.

"We need to give the president a line-item veto," he said. To cheers from the crowd, he added, "and I'm going to bring Governor Pawlenty in to teach them how to use it."

Congress also needs to find a way to "overcome the deep partisan divide in this country," Coleman said.

He referred to graffiti painted on the homes of Minnesota's members of Congress from both major parties. "I can't tell you what caused it," he said. "I can tell you there's too much anger out there."

The tone in Washington needs to be changed, he said, and he promised to work with Republicans and Democrats to accomplish that.

"The decisions I make every day, or the ones Al Franken would make, have a profound impact on you," Coleman said. "The choice has to be the right one. … We can fix this."

Coleman appealed to his audience to "give me the next six days," to get out the vote and "I will give you six years of the leadership that will make you proud to be a Minnesotan."


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