Clinton speaks to 4,000 supporters in Minneapolis

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd of supporters at Augsburg College in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon.
MPR Photos/Tom Scheck

Hillary Clinton started speaking about 45 minutes before Super Bowl began and part of the speech may have actually run past the kickoff. But the nearly 4,000 people crammed inside Augsburg College's gymnasium didn't seem to care.

Clinton's event was dubbed "Solutions for the American Economy," but her speech focused on a wide variety of topics including the war in Iraq, the high cost of college tuition and global warming.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton stands in the midst of a crowd gathered at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
MPR Photos/Tom Scheck

Clinton touted her experience as a former First Lady and as a two-term Senator to suggest that she, not her Democratic rival Barack Obama, is best suited for the White House. She also tried to turn the criticism that she's too divisive into a positive.

"Actually I think that's one of the strongest arguments in my favor," she said. "You know, if we're going into a tough contested election, I think we want somebody with a few battle scars, who's tested, who's ready. Who knows how to go the distance against whatever the Republicans decide to do."

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Clinton also repeatedly criticized the Bush Administration. She called George Bush's foreign policy "cowboy diplomacy" and said she would work to restore America's standing in the world. Clinton also said she would withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq but would not end the hunt against Al Qaeda.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama greets supporters at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
MPR Photos/Tom Scheck

"Let's make no mistake about this, we will withdraw from Iraq, but that doesn't mean we will not continue to go after Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and those attacked us and put our country and our allies and our friends at risk and at danger," she said.

Clinton said she would take away the tax cuts for oil companies and use the money to invest in renewable energy sources. She said she would provide tax credits for students in college and would ensure that legislation is passed that would guarantee health care coverage for every American.

Clinton supporters lined up a full five hours before doors were opened to the public. LaRae Schwenn of Richfield was the first in line. She said she's been impressed with Clinton since her husband, Bill, was elected President in 1992. She especially liked her work to provide universal health care during Bill Clinton's first term.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama addresses a crowd at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
MPR Photos/Tom Scheck

"I think she was the woman behind the man for eight years," she said. "I really want to see her ideas put into play. I think she deserves that."

Clinton is competing with Barack Obama to win Minnesota's 72 delegates. Minnesota's precinct caucuses are this Tuesday - the same time that more than 20 other states hold primaries and caucuses.

Obama made his case to Minnesota on Saturday. Twenty-thousand people packed into the Target Center in Minneapolis to hear Obama's hour long speech. Obama focused a large part of his campaign speech on his key campaign theme - change. He tried to inspire his core supporters with the message that they can make history.

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney speaks to a group of supporters in Edina, Minn.
MPR Photos/Tim Pugmire

"There's a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, where that spirit of hopefulness has to come through," he told them.

Republican Mitt Romney also made a Saturday campaign stop in Minnesota. The former Massachusetts governor held a private fundraiser and a public forum in Edina. Romney's speech focused on family values, immigration and other conservative themes. He repeatedly pointed out the differences between himself and GOP frontrunner John McCain. Romney also highlighted a big advantage he sees over McCain in dealing with the economy.

"You know, our economy is a little unstable right now," he said. "People are looking at their savings and their 401ks and saying will there be enough for my retirement? Will my kids have enough for school? Let me tell you, when the economy is shaky, I think it's actually helpful to have somebody who's had a job in the private sector be the president."

Mitt Romney greets supporters
Mitt Romney greets a group of supporters gathered in Edina, Minn.
MPR Photos/Tim Pugmire

McCain's campaign has not spent as much time and money getting out the vote in Minnesota. That's partly because the GOP straw poll is nonbinding which means it won't determine which delegates sit at the national convention. Romney said his campaign has developed a strategy in making sure his supporters get to the convention. He wouldn't say how the campaign would do that.

But McCain picked up a key Minnesota endorsement on Sunday. Republican Senator Norm Coleman announced that he is now backing the Arizona Republican.

Another candidate, Republican Ron Paul, will hold a rally at the University of Minnesota Monday evening.