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McCain campaign outlines North Dakota effort

You won't see any John McCain campaign offices per se, nor paid McCain staff, in North Dakota, a regional campaign manager said last week.

But he is organized here nonetheless, Republicans say.

Ben Golnik, a former executive director for the Minnesota Republican Party, was in the state last week to visit with Republicans about the Arizona senator's presidential campaign. The McCain campaign will piggyback with statewide Republican coordinated campaign efforts, said Golnik and North Dakota party Chairman Gary Emineth. And it is all volunteer.

Golnik said the campaign has "somewhere over 10,000 folks on our e-mail list in North Dakota. We've got a strong organization throughout the state."

Eventually the campaign will be organized down to the precinct level.

He said no matter how many dollars Democrat Barack Obama's campaign spends in North Dakota on staff and television ads, it is not going to change Obama's record or positions and North Dakotans will still be voting Republican in the presidential race in November.

Speculation game

The speculation game is in overdrive around Minnesota political circles.

Whenever Gov. Tim Pawlenty's name is mentioned, pundits want to know what that means to his vice presidential chances.

One newspaper threw a story on Page 1 wondering if his Republican National Convention speech coming the same night as John McCain's acceptance speech could be an indication that he would be the McCain running mate. Others said it was only natural to have the home-state governor deliver a speech.

Then came a McCain news release announcing Pawlenty would be co-chairman of the National Steering Committee of the Sportsman for McCain Coalition. That set off a new round of speculation: Why would McCain name his running mate to such a position? The theory then was that the sportsman news release must be a clear indication that Pawlenty is out.

Ironically, Pawlenty's vice presidential stock appeared to be dropping just as a poll said he could bring votes to McCain.

The Minnesota Public Radio-University of Minnesota poll gives Barack Obama a 48 percent to

38 percent edge in Minnesota, although 20 percent of all voters are either undecided or could switch candidates. Also, if Pawlenty is McCain's pick, the Arizona senator could get a 13-point bump in the state.

ND: Moving to pink?

Countering the McCain campaign somewhat, a national political observer and journalist says North Dakota has softened from bright red to a pinkish red in the presidential stakes.

Louis Jacobson wrote recently in his "Out There" column on that in his most recent "shades of purple" list, that "new members of the purple club, accounting for 23 electoral votes are Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Alaska and South Dakota."

He ranks his purple states on a scale of "likely Democratic," "lean Democratic," "toss-up," "lean Republican" and "likely Republican."

Previously considered "safe Republican," or solid red, Jacobson said North Dakota has moved into the "likely Republican" column.

No. 2 is OK

In most states, mothers tell their kids they can grow up to be president of the United States.

It is different in Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said: "Minnesota has always been the hotbed of vice presidential candidates."

The first-term senator added that mothers bounce their children on a knee and say: "You can grow up and be vice president."

Jesse the Voice

Jesse Ventura is not running for the U.S. Senate, but still could play at least a small part in the race.

Minnesota Independence Party candidate and Ventura pal Dean Barkley said the former governor has agreed to lend his voice to a Barkley Senate campaign radio commercial before the party's Sept. 9 primary.

There's one catch: Barkley said he still needs to raise the money to pay for the radio spot.

Bush-Coleman photo?

Minnesota Democrats are offering a reward for anyone who snaps a photo of President Bush and Sen. Norm Coleman together at next month's Republican National Convention.

"Coleman, who once treasured having his photo taken with the president, is now actively running from President Bush and the Republican Party, recently going so far as to say that if the convention were not being held in St. Paul, he would not attend," a Democratic-Farmer-Laborite news release said.

Added another release: "The DFL Party will pay the person either $532.88 in cash - the amount that Norm Coleman finally paid in back utilities to his landlord Jeff Larson - or the equivalent of $600 in used furniture - the currency Norm Coleman once used to pay a month's rent."

Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report.