The Mankato Free Press carries a pair of articles about yesterday's dueling rallies in the Key City. First up, coverage of the Walz rally and subsequent press conference, which threw the spotlight on Tim Walz:
A news conference after the rally drew more Twin Cities and national media than usual for such an event because of the close race and because of the Kerry flap. Kerry’s comments, which he said were a botched joke aimed at President Bush, were being portrayed by some Republicans as an attack on the intelligence of U.S. troops.
Walz, a 24-year National Guard veteran and a high school teacher, said he “can’t speak for the senator.” Walz said he’d take Kerry at his word that it was a botched joke and said it was up to Kerry to decide if he should apologize for the remarks.
Walz, who said he has never had a lot of “star power” around him in his campaign, said his run for office has grown from an extreme long shot to a tight race because he hasn’t been afraid to take firm stands in detailed position papers and because he’s addressing issues of concern such as the war, economy, children’s issues and health care.
Walz read the lead paragraph from a Wall Street Journal story to bolster his point:
“If there is one House race that captures the struggle between Republican power in Congress and a grass-roots demand for change, it is here in Minnesota’s 1st District,” read the article that appeared in Monday’s Journal.
A snapshot of the rally:
But the absence of the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee didn’t appear to hurt attendance or the enthusiasm of supporters for Walz, the Democrat trying to unseat Republican Gil Gutknecht in the 1st District U.S. House race.
With dozens of people wearing “Veterans for Walz” shirts in the front rows of seats at Bresnan Arena, Walz said Gutknecht has failed to face the issues of Iraq or provide details on what he believes should be done in Iraq.
“You can try to gloss over it, but I think a prerequisite to this job is to understand foreign policy, especially when you’re sending 3,000 of our young soldiers over there to die,” Walz said.
The McCain rally? Gutknecht, McCain's star power, Minnesota's sitting governor. . .
The fracas over comments made by Democratic Sen. John Kerry about the Iraq war — which prompted him to cancel plans to headline a competing rally across town — made only a brief cameo appearance in the GOP event at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
Instead, the rally was devoted to firing up Republican-leaning voters and to get activists active in the final days of several tight races.
“We need you to get out the vote,” said McCain, the early front-runner to be the Republican nominee for president in 2008. “That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Although the rally came in the midst of a work-day morning, as many as 300 people came to see McCain.
The New Ulm Journal covers the Walz rally:
MANKATO — National recording artist Martin Zellar belted out “I Want To Drive The Zamboni” Wednesday at Bresnan Arena as veterans and union workers filed in for Congressional candidate Tim Walz’s campaign rally.
Zellar, 43, the Mower County DFL Chairman, said he came to the rally not as a musician but as a husband and father of his two young sons he wants to protect.
Older military veterans and labor union members comprised a good share of the arena crowd.
Nicollet County Commissioner Colleen Landkammer said Walz is a father, husband, coach, teacher and businessman who cares deeply about the future of the United States.
Walz dashed down a stairway and onto the arena floor, smiling, shaking hands, raising his hands, waving, and hugging a number of supporters and political candidates.
He described his campaign race against Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht, widely considered to be among the most competitive in the country, as an example of grassroots political change.
“One person asked me how a teacher and veteran could deal with the complex Congressional problems like U.S.-China trade. I answered the question in Chinese,” said Walz.
Regarding the fact that Sen. John Kerry did not appear at the rally, Walz said he isn’t concerned about star power.
“If I have to bring in somebody to speak for me, I’m finished,” Walz added.
His platform planks include voting to bar lobbyists from congressional chambers and banning all privately-funded congressional trips.
Walz wants to make Congress pay for a larger portion of special education costs, leaving more money for new textbooks, building repairs, and more teachers.
Gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch and his running mate Judi Dutcher join the Walz campaign tour today. They’ll be at the River Rock Coffee in St. Peter at 9 a.m. and in the lower level of Centennial Student Union, Minnesota State University, Mankato at 10:30 a.m.
Yesterday, the conservative paper editorialized about the Kerry gaffe:
Massachussetts Sen. John Kerry created quite a stir this week with what he called bungled joke about President Bush that sounded more like he was ridiculing the troops in Iraq.
While Republicans have been whipping up outrage, and succeeded in keeping Kerry from coming to Minnesota for a campaign trip, we think it’s pretty obvious Kerry is guilty of little more than the inability to tell a joke.
While we agree with Bush’s policies, we admit he is as ripe for ridicule as anyone. And anyone who can’t successfully tell a joke about Bush ought to give up humor for good.
The New Ulm Journal article about the rally mentioned Walz's commitment to helping clean up Congress. How bad is it? Analysis in today's Washington Post carries the headline Scandals Alone Could Cost Republicans Their House Majority:
Indictments, investigations and allegations of wrongdoing have helped put at least 15 Republican House seats in jeopardy, enough to swing control to the Democrats on Tuesday even before the larger issues of war, economic unease and President Bush are invoked.
"So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that's pretty unique," Zelizer said. "There were scandals throughout the '70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming."
Tim Walz has campaigned primarily on the larger issues, but even Gutknecht knows how his chances are choking on the atmosphere of GOP scandals.
The WSJ quoted Tim Walz:
"When you wake up Nov. 8, it can be a brand new world," Walz told supporters last week in Owatonna. "It's not vindictiveness. It's not us saying all our Republican neighbors are wrong. It's us saying this Congress is broken. This rubber-stamp Congress is not giving this country the ability to move forward and compromise."
And that larger issue? Today's New York Times reports that With Election Driven by Iraq, Voters Want New Approach:
A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress next Tuesday and say Republicans will maintain or increase troop levels to try to win the war if they hold on to power on Capitol Hill, according to the final New York Times/CBS News poll before the midterm election.
The poll showed that 29 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the war, matching the lowest mark of his presidency. Nearly 70 percent said Mr. Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and 80 percent said Mr. Bush’s latest effort to rally public support for the conflict amounted to a change in language but not policy.
The poll underlined the extent to which the war has framed the midterm elections. Americans cited Iraq as the most important issue affecting their vote, and majorities of Republicans and Democrats said they wanted a change in approach. Twenty percent said they thought the United States was winning in Iraq, down from a high this year of 36 percent in January.