Coleman, Franken get a little help from their friends

Franken, Klobuchar and McCollum
From left, 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL Senate candidate Al Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigned a week before Election Day at a coffee house in the Midway area of St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

About 50 people jammed into the banquet room of an Inver Grove Heights restaurant to see Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman. Senior citizens, veterans and children from a local Catholic school gave the two Republicans a warm welcome when they walked into the room.

The event was meant to motivate Coleman's supporters to vote next week. Pawlenty warmed up the crowd by stressing Coleman's experience.

"Norm Coleman is somebody who is seasoned," he said. "He is wise and he is good hearted and with all due candor, Al Franken is not.

Coleman and Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, right, joined GOP Sen. Norm Coleman on the campaign trail today. The two criss-crossed the Twin Cities suburbs today talking to supporters. They stopped at a restaurant in Inver Grove Heights.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Pawlenty continued to question Franken's qualifications as some in the crowd cheered.

"This is not a time to send to the United States Senate somebody who has no record of leadership, no record of service, no record of accomplishment, no record of being able to get things done for our state and the nation," he said.

Pawlenty didn't stop at criticizing Franken. He also said Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley didn't have much of a record.

Pawlenty is joining Coleman on the campaign trail as polls show a tight race for U.S. Senate between Franken and Coleman.

Coleman is hoping that Pawlenty's high approval ratings will convince undecided voters to choose him. It may also prompt those not voting for Coleman to give him another look. Coleman called on his supporters to continue to make phone calls, knock on doors and do anything else they can to get him elected.

"Somebody once said that a leader without followers is just a guy taking a walk," he said. "Without you the governor can't do very much and I can't do very much. But with you we can do great things."

Coleman crowd
Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman made a campaign stop Tuesday at a restaurant in Inver Grove Heights. Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke on Coleman's behalf.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Coleman stuck to his core message during his speech. He said he won't support a troop withdrawal from Iraq unless the commanders on the ground recommend it. He said he'll work to keep taxes low and will work to fix the nation's struggling economy.

Coleman said he understands the struggles that Americans are having making ends meet. And he added that he'll demand accountability for anyone who broke the law.

"Those who are responsible in Washington and Wall Street for the mess that we find that this country is in, we'll hold them accountable," he said. "We'll prosecute them. Some will go to jail. We'll do that. We'll do that. But when you walk into a voting booth, unlike a debate, you're not going to be thinking about who to blame. You're going to be thinking 'Who can fix it?'"

After speech, Coleman told reporters that Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens should resign. Stevens was found guilty Monday of violating federal ethics laws. Coleman and Pawlenty are scheduled to make more campaign stops Wednesday in Willmar, St. Cloud, Sauk Centre, Glenwood, Morris and Alexandria.

DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been campaigning for Senate candidates all over the country. Today she joined Al Franken on the campaign trail.

"The number one seat that we're focused on today is the state of Minnesota," she said at a rally in St. Paul, "and my friend Al Franken."

Polls show Klobuchar is well regarded by a solid majority of Minnesotans. Some of the same voter surveys have indicated Franken could benefit by improving his standing with women.

Franken and Klobuchar started the day in Rochester and made their way to St. Paul for a stop at the Gingko Coffee House which was packed full of students from nearby Hamline University.

Klobuchar noted the excitement surrounding Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign. She appealed to the crowd not to forget about Franken and the Senate race.

Klobuchar cited numerous bills that will pass the Senate if enough Democrats, Al Franken among them, win next week.

Al Franken
Al Franken exits his campaign bus after stopping in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Franken had no troubling firing up the crowd.

"Vote for working families," he said. "Vote for the middle class. Vote for change because this is the year that we take our country back. This is the year that we take our country back, and we get to work! Thank you!"

Franken appealed to the students to help him take back former Sen. Paul Wellstone's seat by working hard to get out the DFL vote next week.

"We can send Norm Coleman packing and we can start the change that Minnesota families need," he said as the crowd cheered.

As Hamline law student Karly Kauf waited for Franken to show up at the coffee house, she said even though she supports Franken, she thought Coleman would probably beat him. After she heard Franken speak, Kauf felt more encouraged about Franken's prospects.

"I'm excited that he's so passionate, and I'm excited that he's not letting the right sort of push him to be somebody he's not," she said. "I like the enthusiasm. I like how excited he is."

Franken has an aggressive travel schedule that will take him and his giant blue bus throughout the metro area and to greater Minnesota between now and Tuesday.

Unlike the other two major party candidates, Dean Barkley, IP, had no public events Tuesday. He was filming his first television ad.

Barkley has raised a fraction of the money Coleman and Franken have. And both Franken and Coleman have national parties and outside groups pouring millions into the race to buy TV ads.

Barkley said the ad he plans to start airing this week has a positive message.

"I've never gone negative," he said. "It's not going to be a negative ad. I'm going to talk to the people of Minnesota. I'm going to tell them why I'm doing this, why I think I'm the best choice, why I'm the only one that can actually bring some sanity to Washington D.C., change the way they operate, and actually start solving the myriad problems the two parties are ignoring right now."

Barkley served briefly in the U.S. Senate after the death of Paul Wellstone when Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed him. Ventura's successful gubernatorial campaign was fueled in part by a series of humorous television ads.