8th District candidates make final push to turn out votersby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
MOUNTAIN IRON, Minn. — On the last day before the election, the congressional candidates in Minnesota's 8th District campaigned on opposite ends of the sprawling district in the northeastern corner of the state.
Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack is spending the final hours of the campaign to rally supporters in the southern part of the 8th District. Challenger former Rep. Rick Nolan is trying to fire-up Democrats in the northern part of the district.
At this late stage, for most campaigns the time for persuasion is over and all efforts given to getting supporters to actually vote. Gov. Mark Dayton, former Rep. Jim Oberstar and several other politicians joined Nolan for "get out the vote" rallies on the Iron Range Sunday afternoon.
Two years ago, Oberstar's re-election loss in the 8th stunned many Democrats, and ever since local and national parties have been working to win the seat back.
"I've not said much. I've not said anything, in fact," Oberstar said. "But we're on the eve of a choice to make."
Standing before a few dozen Democrats gathered in a union hall in Hibbing, Oberstar spoke passionately about worker's rights. He ripped Cravaack and other House Republicans for votes against working people.
"You want a member of Congress that will do the right thing. Rick Nolan will do the right thing," Oberstar told the crowd of supporters.
A central message of Nolan's campaign has been a call to increase taxes on wealthy Americans and reduce military spending overseas in favor of rebuilding roads and bridges at home. He stuck with that message to criticize Republicans.
"They believe at their core, in this trickle-down economics — which at best is tinkle-down economics at the expense of the middle — and that, at its core, is what is the difference between Democrats and Republicans." Nolan said.
As the rally broke up, campaign organizers urged people to volunteer to make telephone calls and knock on doors.
"Sign up to get out the vote. We'll put you to work door-knocking."
At the DFL headquarters in Hibbing, Christine Olson was working the phones.
"You're wanting to vote, but you might not have transportation?"
Voter turnout was down sharply in 2010 from the previous two election years, and Democrats say they will win back the House seat if they can convince their supporters to vote.
At the DFL headquarters in Hibbing, volunteer Christine Olson said she believes Democrats will turn out on Tuesday.
"I think voters have learned their lesson here that we can't be apathetic, we have to get out and vote," Olson said.
As Nolan and other politicians rallied voters on the Iron Range on Sunday, Cravaack was in the Twin Cities introducing Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
"This is all about jobs and the economy, getting Americans back to work for good paying jobs," Cravaack said. "What we need now is the next generation of leaders. Paul Ryan and Gov. Romney is that next generation of leaders."
Just as Democrats are working hard on getting people to the polls, so too are Republicans. Volunteer Jan Patterson of Hermantown was making calls from the GOP "victory center," at a mall in Duluth.
On Saturday afternoon, Cravaack was at a bait and gun store near Duluth accompanied by NRA President David Keene holding a rally with about a dozen hunters.
"It's been really an honor to be endorsed by the NRA because they realize how important this election is," Cravaack said.
Cravaack supporter Durbin Keeney of Hermantown said Nolan, at 68, can't keep up with the generation that Cravaack, 52, is part of.
"We need somebody that's got the energy, I'm almost Nolan's age and I get tired. How long can he do this? I mean it's a 14-to-16 hour day, every day," Keeney said.
Cravaack said his campaign is much larger this year than it was in 2010.
"It's a lot more organized than it was a couple of years ago. We've made a lot more phone calls in getting out the vote, we've done a lot more door knocking, a lot more leaflet dropping," Cravaack said. "So our get out the vote efforts, gosh, it's probably four- or five-times better than what it was a couple of years ago."
Nolan also sounded confident.
"I'm feeling the wind at our back. And so we're in a position to win and if everybody gets out, does everything they can, we'll win this one," Nolan said. "But it's going to be very close."
That "it's going to be very close," turns out to be on the few things Nolan and Cravaack agree on.