Mondale-Coleman race begins in Minnesota
Bush stumps in South Dakota
MINNEAPOLIS (CNN) -- Former Vice President Walter Mondale launched his Senate campaign in Minnesota Thursday by touting his experience in hopes of blunting Republican arguments that his time has passed.
Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nominated Mondale, 74, Wednesday night to replace the late Sen. Paul Wellstone on Tuesday's ballot. Wellstone was waging a tough re-election bid against Republican Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, when he died in a plane crash last week.
"Somebody had to make sure that this tragedy didn't end in futility," Mondale told a students at Macalester College in St. Paul, where he once attended classes.
Mondale promised to "carry forward Paul Wellstone's legacy," but Coleman argues he is better prepared to represent Minnesota's future than Mondale, who last sought statewide office in 1972.
"This race is about the future." Coleman, 53, told voters Thursday in western Minnesota. He said Wellstone's death was a tragedy, and "broken hearts are never the same ... but we have to go back to work."
Mondale represented Minnesota in the Senate from 1964 to 1976 before becoming Jimmy Carter's vice president. If he returns to Washington, he said, he could "start being effective on the first day in the Senate."
"I've been there. I know the rules. I helped shape them," he said.
"Under the rules when I return, if the voters will let me, I will become part of the leadership on the first day because I'm a former vice president," he added. "That will allow me to go to work immediately to help our state and to help be a force in American life."
Mondale was referring to Senate Resolution 17, enacted on January 10, 1977, which created the leadership position of Deputy President Pro Tempore in the Senate. The resolution states that any member of the Senate who has held the office of president or vice president of the United States will be named to the position.
Minnesota's closely watched race
With Wellstone's death, the Senate is divided 49-49 between Democrats and Republicans, with one independent. His re-election bid was among the most closely watched races in next week's midterm elections.
Coleman was hand-picked by the White House to run against Wellstone, and President Bush is scheduled to campaign for him over the weekend as part of an extensive effort on behalf of Republican candidates.
Bush is scheduled to visit 15 states before Tuesday to plug GOP House and Senate hopefuls. Thursday he spoke in South Dakota on behalf of Rep. John Thune. Thune is challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who has the backing of the state's Democratic senior senator, Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Later, Bush went to South Bend, Indiana, to campaign for House candidate Chris Chocola, who is seeking to replace outgoing Democrat Tim Roemer.
"I need somebody from this district whose vote I can count on. I don't need to be worried about somebody who's running a focus group or a poll," Bush said. "I need a solid United States congressman up there who will support me in making America a stronger and safer and better place for every citizen."
Another weekend campaign stop for the president will be in Florida, where his brother -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- is locked in a close race with Tampa lawyer Bill McBride. Jeb Bush appeared Thursday with firefighters in suburban Miami with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani by his side.
Democrats' No. 1 target
"He has been a great governor," Giuliani said. "I know your going to continue him in office and give him the kind of victory he deserves next Tuesday."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has said Jeb Bush is the party's No. 1 target in this year's races, but the Florida governor said he would rather have "one Rudy Giuliani than 20 Terry whatever-his-name-is."
"Rudy Giuliani's beloved, and my brother's not so unbeloved," he said.
But Tuesday's arrival of more than 200 Haitian immigrants from an overcrowded boat off Miami has put Bush on the defensive over federal authorities' arrests of the Haitians. Protesters demonstrated outside a Jeb Bush campaign stop Wednesday, and McBride called on President Bush to issue an executive order releasing the migrants and allowing them to seek immediate asylum hearings.
Jeb Bush said he expects efforts to turn the Haitians' treatment into a political issue so close to Election Day will backfire.
President Bush will travel Friday to Middletown, Pennsylvania, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Louisville, Kentucky, and then Saturday to Blountville, Tennessee, followed by stops in Savannah and Marietta, Georgia, and Tampa.
On Sunday, Bush will stop in Springfield, Illinois, Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and overnight in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
On Monday, he will have an event in Cedar Rapids then travel to St. Charles, Missouri; Bentonville, Arkansas; Dallas, Texas, and then overnight at his Crawford ranch.
The president will vote Tuesday in Texas before returning to the White House.