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Democrats go after Pawlenty

Democrats are not waiting for Gov. Tim Pawlenty to become John McCain's running mate; they are attacking now.

The Democratic National Committee has launched www.thenextcheney.com, which criticizes the leading Republican vice presidential contenders, including Minnesota's governor.

In a telephone conference call with reporters introducing the Web site, state Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, said Pawlenty is too partisan:

"The success of our state is a result of a long-standing tradition in which politicians have put our state first before partisan politics. That has not been the case with our current governor."

She said that in many negotiations, "at the very end, he walks away."

Added Brian Melendez, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman: "Pawlenty represents more of the Bush-Cheney style of politics.'

No Obama

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who serves a vast area of western Minnesota, invited presidential candidate Barack Obama to southwest Minnesota's FarmFest, but Obama declined.

Peterson said: "I gave my advice to them as I did with Nancy Pelosi." But Obama campaign officials rejected the invitation.

Two years ago, he invited soon-to-be House Speaker Pelosi to the ag event, which won her over to Peterson's work on a new farm bill. Peterson had hoped an Obama visit would do the same if Obama is elected president.

Obama's Minnesota campaign spokesman, Nick Kimball, said the candidate understands the importance of FarmFest, but logistics prevented the Democrat from visiting the agriculture trade show despite him being in Minneapolis on FarmFest's final day.

Who's to blame?

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told a FarmFest audience that she recently was in Oklahoma to see off National Guard troops.

In 109-degree weather, about 37 people fainted during the ceremony.

When Klobuchar's daughter heard about the episode, she had her own version: "Mom talked so long that 37 people fainted."

No one fainted during the senator's FarmFest talk.

Cities get a shot

Gov. Tim Pawlenty introduced a Washington audience to two Minnesota cities -- Alexandria and Stillwater.

As Pawlenty discussed growth of government, he told the National Press Club audience that in the past when speaking to groups back home he would ask for a show of hands of people whose paychecks were growing beyond 3 percent.

"I had one person in Alexandria, Minn., who raised his hand and said, 'My paycheck's going up like 50 percent,'" Pawlenty said, adding he asked the man of his occupation. "He said, 'I was unemployed and now I've got a paycheck.'"

Pawlenty gave the audience another minor geography lesson when talking about how he believes education is becoming more tech-based.

"Why would you drive from Stillwater, Minn., in January one hour in rush hour to get over to the University of Minnesota campus, park in a remote parking lot, put on your backpack, haul across campus in challenging weather conditions, get into a lecture hall, unpack, sit in a chair and then have a sometimes gifted, sometimes not assistant professor lecture you on economics 101 -- and pay a great price for it?" Pawlenty asked. "Why would you not get out of bed in your pajamas, pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit on your sofa and dial it up?"

Coleman happy

Democrat Al Franken said he needed to tell Minnesotans what he sees as the truth about U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman during a Senate forum, so he went on the attack early in their first face-to-face meeting.

Just 22 seconds into the FarmFest forum, Franken blasted Coleman.

Franken was not in the friendliest of territories. At one point, he asked whether those in the audience -- mostly farmers -- liked what has been going on the past few years.

He obviously expected the crowd to say, "no." But he did not get much of a response, perhaps because farmers have been doing better than usual and that it was a heavily Republican audience.

Republican Coleman received louder applause than Franken throughout the forum.

Coleman walked out of the forum tent happy. He felt like he was among his own at FarmFest, or at least among people who like him.

"In the end, people are going to have to judge us for what we have done," Coleman said.

That's a comment with two meanings: First, and most obviously, it means Coleman has served farmers for six years in the Senate. But also, Coleman probably was trying to remind voters about Franken's past controversial writings.

'Kick them out'

U.S. Senate candidates were debating immigration at FarmFest, when Independence Party candidate Steve Williams gave his opinion:

"The only people who need to be deported are the members of the ruling parties in Washington."

Welfare questions

Minnesota House Republicans called on the legislative auditor to investigate how some welfare benefits are used.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said GOP lawmakers found that more than $10 million from welfare cards was spent outside Minnesota in a recent 12-month period. Nearly $500 million was spent overall.

"You can make an argument it's only a few percent, but it's a lot of money," he said.

Low-income Minnesotans can use the card to get cash, food and other items. It is not illegal to use the cards outside Minnesota, but Seifert said he and others want more information about why the cards are being used all over the United States.

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