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McCain: Minnesota volunteers vital

ST. PAUL - Republican presidential candidate John McCain put pressure on his Minnesota campaign volunteers Thursday night, telling them that what they do could spell the difference between him winning and losing.

"Minnesota may determine who the next president of the United States is," he said, adding that if his volunteers don't do a good enough job that he could lose.

He told the 125 volunteers gathered in a steamy St. Paul Republican call center that he was just using the "straight talk" that is his trademark.

McCain arrived in the Twin Cities an hour late Thursday and talked to the volunteers briefly before shaking hands of most who had waited so long for him. He met with 15 independent voters, conducted a telephone conference call with Virginia supporters and sat down for brief broadcast interviews before he, his wife Cindy and Gov. and Mary Pawlenty left the Republican telephone operation.

The Arizona senator, his party's presumptive nominee, is to lead an all-woman town hall meeting in Hudson, Wis., this morning to discuss business issues.

Gov. Pawlenty said he and McCain did not discuss whether the governor would become his party's vice presidential candidate, but McCain continued his practice of showering praise on Pawlenty.

"I just want to tell you how proud I am of Tim Pawlenty," McCain told an appreciative audience during the 13 minutes he spent with the volunteers.

McCain was not there a long time, but Ted Lovdahl of Effie did not seem to mind. In fact, the Republican 8th Congressional District chairman was excited that he could shake hands with the two McCains.

He said his heavily Democratic district could provide quite a bit of support for McCain, a Vietnam war hero.

Ron Britton of Eveleth said many veterans on the Iron Range will be in McCain's camp. And there are more Republicans near the Twin Cities end of the expansive northeast and north-central Minnesota district, he added.

Rangers tend to pick candidates more on issues than party, Britton said.

"He's just a terrific individual," Lovdahl said.

Democrats may support McCain, Lovdahl said, because of his experience. "No matter how they (Democrats) go after him, he never loses his cool."

Cindy McCain said she is glad the Republican National Convention will be in St. Paul this September, saying Minnesota "is nearly a second home." She said she spent lots of time in the state with their children when they attended sports and language summer camps.

"Thank you for what you have done, and most importantly thank you for what you will do," she told the McCain supporters.

Gov. Pawlenty said he is not concerned that McCain today showcases a Wisconsin company that just last month moved from Maple Grove, Minn.

"We have a lot of crossing borders with Wisconsin," he said. "We take a little bigger picture than just one business."

For the campaign, the bigger picture includes states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, among the states Pawlenty called battlegrounds for the presidential campaign.

But he also said McCain most likely will campaign in North Dakota and South Dakota, both traditionally Republican areas. "You can't be overly confident," added Pawlenty, a national McCain campaign co-chairman.