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White House visits boost Coleman campaign
Laura Bush stumped for Republican candidates Saturday night in Eagan. The first lady appeared with most of the Republican candidates for statewide office and, in particular, was the highlight to a busy day of campaigning by Senate candidate Norm Coleman.

St. Paul, Minn. — Bush spoke before hundreds of Republican activists in Eagan High School's gymnasium, surrounded by GOP candidates for the state Legislature, Congress, the governor's office, and the U.S. Senate. She began by remembering DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone, who until his death late last month was locked in a heated battle with former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman.

But Bush quickly moved from reflection to exhortation, calling on Minnesota voters to send Coleman to Washington.

"Norm Coleman has been campaigning throughout this state for more than 16 months, listening to the concerns and the aspirations of Minnesota. He has a proven record that many would be proud of. He brought new energy to the city of St. Paul and with it a brand new hockey team," she said.

After suspending his campaign in the wake of Wellstone's death, Coleman revived his efforts in the middle of last week. He now faces former Vice President Walter Mondale in a race that polls suggest is as tight as the contest against Wellstone.

Since resuming his campaign, Coleman has criss-crossed the state by air, as he detailed to supporters at the rally.

"We have flown over 3,000 miles, visited 18 cities, and met with thousands of regular Minnesotans. It's been the best four days I've ever had with all the uplifting love and support. And the folks with whom we visit around Minnesota are all telling me the same thing. They're telling me that we're going to win," Coleman said.

Coleman's Saturday schedule kept took him through the southern tier of the state, hitting Redwood Falls, Worthington, Fairmont, and Albert Lea before returning to the Twin Cities rally with the first lady.

At each stop, Coleman touched on familiar themes of job growth, low taxes, and his accomplishments in St. Paul, and he's found a new message tailored to his new opponent: Coleman supporters greeted him with freshly-printed campaign signs reading "The Future is Now."

The sentiment is a not-so-subtle attempt to associate Mondale with the past. Coleman, while avoiding his rival's name, says it's Mondale's job to define himself for the voters of 2002.

"The challenge is upon my opponent to say, OK what's your plan in the 21st century? How are you going to grow jobs? Do you still believe in raising taxes as a way to promote economic growth? He's got to come out and tell people 'here's what I think.' In Minnesota you've got to earn something," Coleman said.

Coleman and Mondale will have a chance to explore their differences when the two meet in their first -- and only -- debate Monday morning. But already, Coleman's new tack seems to be gaining traction among the supporters who rallied around their candidate at the Fairmont VFW hall, only miles from Mondale's boyhood home.

Jean Teeslink, a retired elementary school teacher, says as young girl, she slept in Mondale's hand-me-down bed -- a gift from the Mondale family. But she says even that personal connection won't steer her away from Coleman.

She, like other supporters at the rally, repeated Coleman's message of energy, vigor, and the future.

"He's young; he's ready to go with the hockey and all the things that he's done. I've heard Democrats say they're really impressed with Norm because of what he's done for St. Paul," she said.

A Sunday visit by President Bush follows not just his wife, Laura, but Vice President Dick Cheney, who campaigned with Coleman on Friday outside of Duluth.

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