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In U.S. Senate race, Barkley seeks funds, support

Dean Barkley said it still is possible he could win the U.S. Senate race as a third-party candidate and that independent voters are under-represented in polls showing him trailing his two major-party opponents. (Scott Wente/St. Paul Bureau)

WACONIA - Dean Barkley wrapped up an early morning campaign stop having admitted he doesn't like asking for donations and sometimes even tires of hearing himself talk.

"I've got them stumped," he said of the small group of voters who ran out of questions during his Wednesday visit to this western Minneapolis exurb. "I'm going to have to go back and raise money."

Trailing in the U.S. Senate race, the Independence Party candidate may need to do more talking and fund-raising in the campaign's final few days.

While Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken spend the final days of the long campaign before large crowds all over the state, Barkley is driving himself to campaign events, dialing for campaign donations and organizing his first television commercial buy.

"Here's some propaganda that tells you how wonderful I am," Barkley said half-jokingly as he handed out a brochure to the 20 voters waiting for him at the Mocha Monkey coffee shop.

For the next hour, Barkley talked about how to fix Social Security and the national debt -- his favorite campaign topics -- and fielded skeptical voters' questions about his brief stint as a lobbyist and whether he could influence Washington when there are only two other independent senators.

"If I get there, the three of us could probably control the joint," he said of the power they would yield.

Barkley answered all of the questions -- except for the one about which presidential candidate he supports; he claims to be undecided -- and made sure to take a few jabs at his opponents.

Barkley faults Coleman and other congressional incumbents for looking the other way in the lead up to the financial crisis.

"He was watching the store as this economic meltdown occurred," Barkley said. "And he wants to go back for more."

And Barkley has been no easier on Franken.

"Al flew in here to be our savior for the middle class," he said of the former comedian. "He doesn't know what it's like to be in the middle class."

With a laid-back, self-deprecating approach, Barkley insists he still could pull it off Tuesday. He said he is polling only slightly lower than was Jesse Ventura at this point in the 1998 governor race.

Barkley, who led that campaign and later was appointed by Ventura to a brief Senate term after Sen. Paul Wellstone's 2002 death, said independents are under-represented in polling.

"Ten years ago, they gave Jesse a shot, and I hope they're ready to do it again," he said, adding that Ventura helped him raise money recently to pay for a TV ad he will begin airing today.

Some voters remain unconvinced.

Waconia resident Dave Philp said he was attracted to Barkley's candidacy earlier in the campaign out of anger at Democrats and Republicans, but has since decided to support Coleman. Philp said he listened when Coleman visited the same coffee shop earlier this week and likes what the first-term senator stands for.

Philp also said he wants his vote to matter.

"You want it to count," he said, "and unfortunately with an independent, you just don't know if it's going to count."

Coffee house regular Betty Grimm said she likes what Barkley is offering. She is the type of voter Barkley is trying to capitalize on: Grimm said she is "very frustrated with both parties."

"We need another dimension, and I think Barkley can be the starting point," she said.