Clinton, Sanders court MN Dems ahead of caucuses

Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the Humphrey-Mondale dinner at the St. Paul RiverCentre. AP Photo | Evan Vucci
Hillary Clinton
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton arrives to speak at Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor party's Humphrey-Mondale dinner, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Hillary Clinton used a Minnesota-themed appeal, and Bernie Sanders relied on his familiar campaign themes as the two made separate pitches to ardent Minnesota Democrats at a fundraising dinner in St. Paul Friday night.

The DFL's annual Humphrey-Mondale Dinner attracted more than 4,000 people to St. Paul’s RiverCentre less then three weeks before Minnesota's March 1 precinct caucuses.

Clinton said she wants to build on the accomplishments of President Obama, including the Affordable Care Act. She took direct aim at Sanders when she called herself a “progressive who actually likes to make progress.”

“All of us know, don’t we? Don’t we know that we need real solutions to the challenges we face? I’m running to tear down all the barriers that hold people back across our country. I am not making promises I can’t keep,” the former secretary of state said.

Clinton dropped several Minnesota references in her speech, and thanked many of the state’s top Democrats who support her campaign.

Sanders largely stuck to more familiar messages.

“It sounds like some of you are ready for a political revolution,” the Vermont Senator said as he took the stage.

Sanders, who had earlier appeared at a forum on race and economic opportunity in Minneapolis, told the DFL donors that he wants to fix a broken criminal justice system and end what he views as a "corrupt" campaign finance system. Sanders also took aim at income inequality.

“My friends, this is not an American economy. It is not a fair economy," he said. "It is a rigged economy, and together we’re going to change that.”

DFL leaders declared the event the largest in the state party’s history. It brought in a record $1 million in donations.

George Humphrey, 23, of  Wayzata who said he is not related to the Minnesota political icon, was among those who attended the dinner, even though he hasn't made up his mind yet which candidate he will support.

While his sister backs Clinton, and many of his friends are Sanders supporters, Humphrey wanted to hear for himself what each candidate had to say.

“Both options are better than anything coming out of the Republican side. So, I’m focused more on just general support for the Democrats than trying to figure out specifically which one I support,” he said.

It's unclear whether Minnesota will see more campaign visits before March 1st.

Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Keith Downey said he’s not aware of any plans by GOP presidential candidates, but thinks one or more could drop in at the end of the month. Even if they don’t, Downey said the Minnesota supporters of the candidates are ready to roll.

"The field teams are totally geared up and mobilized and doing a lot work out in the districts and working hard to drive their people to the polls," Downey said. "There's certainly activity here whether or not we see any candidates individually present we'll wait and see."

Minnesota Republicans hold their own fundraiser, the annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner, Tuesday night in Minneapolis. No presidential candidates are scheduled to appear.

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