ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s Democratic candidates banded together Wednesday for a splashy launch of a six-day statewide bus tour featuring the ticket’s biggest names, while their Republican opponents went their own ways in smaller-scale campaign swings less than a week before the midterm.
For the Democrats, it was an attempt to gin up pre-election energy among party faithful and Democratic-leaning independents who sometimes skip voting when it’s not a presidential race. Party leaders hope it culminates next Tuesday in the re-election of Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken while also sparing a shaky state House majority and vulnerable congressional incumbents.
Democrats shivered outside the state Capitol on a chilly morning as Dayton and Franken joined other candidates, union officials and supporters standing next to a coach bus adorned with a wrap that read, “On the Road to a Better Minnesota.”
“We are going to present the voters of Minnesota with a fateful decision in six days: Whether we want to continue making progress and moving ahead or whether we want to go back,” Dayton said.
Neither Dayton nor Franken was due to be on the full tour, but they planned to join up at various stops it would make on college campuses, labor halls, coffee shops and satellite party offices. The tour ends Monday night with a rally in downtown St. Paul.
Jeff Johnson, the Republican nominee for governor, kicked off his own final push at a suburban bus terminal. There, he stationed himself underneath a heater as he greeted commuters. “Hi, I’m Jeff Johnson. I’m running for governor,” he said as he extended his hand. And he repeated the drill dozens of times. His schedule had him headed later to New Ulm, Fairmont and Worthington.
After events around the metro Wednesday morning, Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden headed to Duluth as part of a swing that will take him across the state. From there, he said he’ll head up the Iron Range, meeting with miners at dawn Thursday before continuing to Grand Rapids.
“It’s both converting people and it is just driving out our base and continuing the enthusiasm,” McFadden said.
The GOP didn’t plan a coordinated barnstorming tour as it has in years’ past. Republican Party chairman Keith Downey said the candidates were doing their own trips with likely intersections along the way.
“The thinking is it would actually be more effective for our candidates to have their respective journeys across the state, get more coverage and hit more places along the way,” Downey said.
Back at the Capitol, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar playfully poked fun at Franken for his whisker of a win last time — by 312 votes — after a recount and court battle that dragged on for seven months. “The latest polls show Al not 10 votes ahead but 10 points ahead,” she said.
Throughout this campaign, Franken and fellow Democrats have brought up his close margin in 2008 as a way to keep pressure on supporters to actually show up. Dayton also endured a recount in 2010, but he finished with an 8,770-vote cushion.
“Wow! Eighty-eight hundred votes,” Franken said. “Whoa! Would I kill for that.”
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)