State, federal candidates hit road as campaign winds downby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio,
Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
With the final debates behind them, the candidates at the tops of their tickets hit the road Monday with a series of campaign stops to energize their voters and search out those who are still undecided.
St. Louis Park, Minn. — The DFL and Republican Senate candidates spent the day primarily drumming up excitement among their supporters. Democrat Amy Klobuchar worked voters in northeastern Minnesota, which has long been a DFL area. Republican Mark Kennedy campaigned on the other end of the state, the traditional Republican stronghold: southern Minnesota.
Both Klobuchar and Kennedy started their last full day of campaigning early. Klobuchar got on a bus at 4 a.m., in the Twin Cities and headed north for Bemidji and the Iron Range.
Kennedy kicked off his last day of campaigning with an appearance in St. Louis Park. At An event on the lawn outside the headquarters of the Minnesota Professional Firefighters Association, Kennedy shook hands with the GOP faithful.
The rally, featuring former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was billed as an event for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but Kennedy spokes as well.
Kennedy told his Republican audience that getting supporters to the polls will mean the difference between victory and defeat.
"And as we go through the final push, I want to tell you this is all about those who turn up, win," he said.
Gov. Pawlenty referred to Kennedy as the "comeback kid." Despite polls which show Kennedy is running 10 to 20 percentage points behind Klobuchar, Kennedy expressed confidence he'll be elected senator.
"I am absolutely convinced that the tide is on our side that we have a lot of good momentum," said Kennedy, who then boarded his campaign RV to Rochester, Owatonna, Mankato and some other southern Minnesota destinations. He plans to wrap up his final day of the 2006 Senate campaign in his hometown of Watertown.
Nearly 200 miles to the north, Amy Klobuchar was hardly taking it easy as she wrapped up her campaign.
"I always said we would never rest until the last voters in and we have been driving all over the state in our campaign bus," she said.
Although Klobuchar says she's taking nothing for granted despite her strong standing in the polls, she is lending her support to other Minnesota DFLers on the campaign trail.
"We are having legislators and other candidates come with us along the way and so we are helping the rest of our ticket and we are focused on change," Klobuchar said.
In the race for governor, Democrat Mike Hatch made his making his way to an evening rally and sloppy joe feed in Duluth. Hatch says they spent part of the weekend courting the remaining undecided voters. But he says the campaign is now focused on turning out their core supporters.
"There's a lot of Democrats that live on the Iron Range and live in Duluth and I suppose it's like going to Mecca. You have to go back and thank those people who have been so good and turn out the vote and get them enthused," Hatch said.
The Independence Party's Peter Hutchinson stopped at several suburban park-and-rides on Monday morning. At noon he was shaking hands outside of a restaurant in St. Paul's West Side.
Hutchinson said some voters are telling him they prefer him over his opponents, but are concerned that they'll waste their votes. Hutchinson says he's urging them to vote their convictions.
"In this election, you get told a lot of ways to be afraid," Hutchinson said. "Make your vote count. Vote your convictions. Vote for what you believe in. Vote for the possibilities because we know what the other side is saying which is be afraid be very afraid."
While the candidates are making public appearances to motivate key supporters, the parties and others are working behind the scenes to get out the vote.
At a Republican call center in Plymouth, a group of volunteers were busy last week making calls to supporters. The group urged key supporters to vote on Election Day and quizzed some undecided voters on their choices.
With polls showing Pawlenty and Hatch running neck-and-neck, the main ingredient to success may come down to which party can identify their key supporters and get them to the polls.
The Minnesota Republican Party is relying on a database that contains information on two-million homes in Minnesota. Party Chair Ron Carey says the voter file contains voter history, consumer and marketing information, magazine subscription data and other details that help them target Republican voters.
"We try to focus our time primarily on the swing voters and secondly on our core Republican voters, the so-called base, to make sure they will turn out to vote," according to Cary. "And so, no we don't knock on every single door, we don't call every household. We try to focus out time on areas where we think it's going to make the most difference."
Carey says the file also helps them target specific information to voters. For example, he says they can target education literature and talking points to parents with school aged-children.
While the Republican Party has received plenty of national attention for their get-out-the-vote efforts, Democrats and left-leaning groups are working hard to play catch-up.
About a dozen volunteers were busy stuffing voter packets at a South St. Paul union hall last week. Volunteers with the group, America Votes, will then use the information to knock on 250,000 doors in progressive areas across the state.
America Votes is a coalition of Democratic-leaning groups and labor unions who are working to elect DFL candidates. Dan McGrath, the get-out-the-vote director for America Votes, says the coalition's database allows them to tailor their message to specific voters.
"Folks might get a call from a labor union if they're a labor union member. They may be getting a call from an environmental organization if they're a member of one. But there's less duplication and that allows us to talk to a lot more voters on Election Day," he said.
An official with the Minnesota DFL Party says the party also identified core supporters through what's known as micro targeting. They used a mix of party data with voter information from the secretary of state's office to identify their supporters.
Election Day results will indicate which side has been more effective.
- All Things Considered, 11/06/2006, 5:20 p.m.
Mark Zdechlik covers politics for MPR News.