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GOP?convention interest lags

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Minnesota not as exciting as New York City?

A Politico story says that may be a reason interest in the St. Paul Republican National Convention lags behind past GOP confabs and the Democrats' Denver convention.

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"While excitement is building for a Democratic Party convention capped by Barack Obama's historic acceptance speech before a sold-out, 75,000-seat football stadium, the GOP convention the following week is shaping up to be a considerably more staid affair, marked by the conspicuous absence of many of the usual convention attendees," Politico reports.

Many members of Congress apparently are skipping a trip to St. Paul.

While many Washingtonians took a train to New York City in 2004, "St. Paul, by contrast, requires a flight halfway across the country from Washington and, of course, the maddening hassle of air travel. The convention dates aren't great, either, because opening day falls on Labor Day, which for parents marks the beginning of the school year," the political news Web site reports.

"Overall, Republicans have an intensity problem," a Republican lobbyist told Politico. "I have a lot of friends that are just not going that have gone in years past."

Obama lead falls

A new poll shows Barack Obama's Minnesota lead is shrinking.

The Democratic presidential candidate a month ago held a12-point lead over Republican John McCain. Rasmussen Reports says that has fallen to a 46 percent to 42 percent advantage. Other polls also show the Minnesota race tightening.

The poll shows McCain's strength among fellow Republicans is growing stronger, while Obama's Democratic support dropped slightly.

One of the issues that continues to surface is that apparently Gov. Tim Pawlenty as McCain's running mate would hurt the Republican's candidacy more than it would help in Minnesota.

Rasmussen reports that 34 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for McCain with Pawlenty on the ticket, while 28 percent say they would be more likely to back McCain. One reason McCain is said to be considering Pawlenty is to bring Minnesota and other Upper Midwest votes to his side.

The University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier offers an insight into that, saying as the talk increases about Pawlenty joining a John McCain ticket, his Minnesota popularity is shrinking. His popularity rating, as measured by a variety of polls, has fallen from an average of 56 percent to 53 percent. His disapproval ratings have increased from 40 percent to 45 percent.

No Fritz interest

Former Vice President Walter Mondale left no doubt that he lacks interest in a spot in any Obama administration.

"I'm sort of cured of that," Mondale said in response to a fellow Democrat's question. "This type of stuff is interfering with my fishing."

The comment came during an Obama campaign gathering in which senior citizens were being encouraged to talk to others their age in behalf of the Democratic presidential candidate.

"America really wants change," said Mondale, a former Hillary Clinton supporter.

Many of the 100 Democrats in the audience listened to Mondale, then began making telephone calls to other older Minnesotans. The senior citizen vote "is one of the big battlegrounds," the former vice president said.

Bachmann leads

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota represented Republicans in a CNN segment about the oil drilling controversy.

"This is the most perfect place on the planet to drill," she said of the controversial Alaska National Wildlife Refuge oil drilling proposal.

She said the area "is totally frozen" for nine months a year and is small -- "it is the size of a postage stamp on a football field." However, she said that she would leave final drilling decisions to others. "What we need to be doing is all of the above."

Countering Bachmann was U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who said there are other places to drill for oil other than the environmentally sensitive ANWR area.

Bachmann repeated the Republican call for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to return the House to session so members can debate how to obtain more oil. Pallone, however, said Republicans opposed those measures when they first came up when the House was in session earlier this year.

If Pawlenty leaves...

Blois Olson writes that perhaps Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau would not become governor if Gov. Tim Pawlenty goes to Washington as vice president next year.

Olson, a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-leaning analyst, writes on MinnPost.com that there is talk about Molnau resigning, opening the door for the state Senate president to be second in line to the governorship and taking over if Pawlenty leaves office.

That could leave Sen. Jim Metzen, a Democrat from Pawlenty's home town of South St. Paul, as the No. 2 person. Or, Olson's theory goes, Metzen could temporarily step down and senators could elect a moderate Republican like Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, who probably would not use the governor's office to launch a statewide campaign like many politicians would.

But why would Molnau not stay in her No. 2 spot? "It's clear to most who have observed Molnau, including some inside the governor's inner circle, that she would be politically ill-equipped to handle the position under these conditions," Olson writes. "It's not that she isn't smart enough, or capable, but she just doesn't have very many personality traits that would lend themselves to success in this situation. Add to that the likelihood of some significant flight to Washington among the governor's key staff, and it could be an ugly sight."

Obama targets state

The Barack Obama campaign wants volunteers everywhere in Minnesota to spread the word about the Democratic presidential candidate.

In a conference telephone call with reporters, campaign officials said they plan the most extensive grassroots presidential campaign ever in Minnesota.

"We are going to create a massive mobilization effort right here in Minnesota, the size of which the state has not seen before," House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

John Carson of the national Obama campaign said the Democratic candidate is targeting Minnesota: "It is a state we absolutely must carry again."

Campaign officials say they are off to a good start, thanks to March's crowded precinct caucuses, even in rural Minnesota. The campaign claims 1,748 volunteers in rural parts of the state.

Nine Obama offices serve Minnesota, including in Duluth and Moorhead, with more to come, state campaign coordinator Jeff Blodgett said.

It is not just expected tough states like Minnesota and Wisconsin that are being considered battleground states, Carson said. Even North Dakota, which generally opts for Republican presidential candidates, is targeted.

"We have expanded the map significantly of what we consider to be key battlegrounds," he said.

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