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Pawlenty, Hatch plan rural visits

ST. PAUL - It's the final days of the 2006 Minnesota governor campaign, and the two major candidates plan to spend lots of time in western and southern Minnesota, where the farm fields may be mostly cleared, but there remain plenty of votes to ha...

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ST. PAUL - It's the final days of the 2006 Minnesota governor campaign, and the two major candidates plan to spend lots of time in western and southern Minnesota, where the farm fields may be mostly cleared, but there remain plenty of votes to harvest.

Both candidates were in farm country Monday. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, started his day in Detroit Lakes and hit St. Cloud before returning to the Twin Cities and heading southeast to Winona. He also visited Duluth on Monday night. He plans to return to rural Minnesota on Wednesday, Saturday and probably during a last-day bus tour.

Attorney General Mike Hatch, a Democrat, was in Morris, Benson, St. Cloud and Willmar on Monday. He plans to visit Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Crookston today.

Neither campaign has its plans for the week firmly mapped out. Both plan to stop in all parts of the state but emphasize rural areas.

For months, Hatch has said he will stress Minnesota's "L," the electoral prize formed by western and southern counties.

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Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the "L" was not as important the past couple of election cycles as in the past, but that changed this year.

While votes appear to be locked up in many parts of the state - such as Democrats getting those in inner cities and the northeast and Republicans in many suburbs - farm areas in the west and south remain in play even with the election a week away.

Pawlenty and Hatch will mix harvesting votes in the "L" with solidifying their traditional support in the final week.

Hatch had a bit more time to look at farm fields Monday than he planned. His recreational vehicle broke down near Starbuck - between Alexandria and Morris - delaying him for about 45 minutes.

When he arrived in Morris, he was greeted by more than 100 people, including some carrying Pawlenty signs.

Pawlenty flew around the state, as he will at times later in the week. For most of the week, Hatch plans to travel in a recreational vehicle owned and driven by his former challenger, Kelly Doran.

Voters go to the polls a week from today to decide not only the governor's race, but also who will replace U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat.

Democrat Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County attorney, brought potential presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama from Illinois to a Rochester rally Monday after other southeast Minnesota campaign stops.

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While Klobuchar was rallying her supporters, her opponent continued trying to convince her to join an Iraq war debate.

For several days, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy has asked Klobuchar to participate in a debate about the war. However, Klobuchar said Minnesotans know she does not support the war while Kennedy does, and she refused to add a debate.

Klobuchar will be in some of the same areas as Hatch today. She plans a 12:45 p.m. stop at the Arctic Cat plant in Thief River Falls and a 4 p.m. event at Minnesota State University Moorhead's Comstock Union Commons.

Recent polls show Klobuchar leading Kennedy, so most attention is being paid to Hatch and Pawlenty, who were deadlocked.

Pawlenty is to head south of the Twin Cities today, before being joined Wednesday by Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Pawlenty-McCain rallies will be in Rochester, Mankato, Blaine and Duluth.

The Republicans plan a $50-per-person fundraiser Wednesday night at Moorhead's Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

McClung said Pawlenty plans an all-day driving trip on the last day of the campaign, possibly from the Twin Cities to Moorhead.

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Forum Communications reporter Scott Wente and Morris Sun Tribune Editor Tom Larson contributed to this story

Readers can reach Forum Communications reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com

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