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Stumping in full vigor

Gubernatorial hopefuls resume campaigning; Penny disputes latest poll that puts him 3rd

By Gregg Aamot

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's candidates for governor climbed gingerly back onto the campaign trail Wednesday to find a race drastically reshaped since the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone.

A new poll suggested that the tight three-way race of only a week ago was evolving into a battle between Republican Tim Pawlenty and Democrat Roger Moe.

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The Star Tribune's Minnesota Poll showed Pawlenty and Moe with 33 percent and 29 percent of respondents' support, while support for Independence Party candidate Tim Penny slipped to 19 percent, a drop of 8 points from a poll taken before Wellstone's death. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 points.

Undaunted, Penny restarted his campaign with appearances at several Twin Cities college campuses. Pawlenty visited Red Wing, Rochester and other southern Minnesota cities, and Moe took to public radio.

The candidates shuttered their campaigns Friday after learning that Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, their daughter and five other people died in a plane crash near Eveleth, Minn.

Of the three, Moe remained in the spotlight as Democrats rallied around Wellstone's death and former Vice President Walter Mondale's entrance into the U.S. Senate race. Though the new poll didn't show a boost for Moe, one analyst said it should still be expected.

"The saturation coverage of liberal progressivism is kind of priming voters to think about these Wellstone-like issues," said Larry Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political science professor.

Moe, a much more subdued campaigner and speaker than the fiery Wellstone, played on his connection with the liberal Democrat during an interview Wednesday on Minnesota Public Radio.

While apologizing if some people felt he was dull, he said: "That doesn't mean that in my heart I don't share the same kind of commitment to issues that Paul and Sheila Wellstone shared."

A sympathy vote for Moe might hurt Penny the most. The former Democratic congressman was counting on siphoning both Democratic and Republican votes.

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"Bogus," Penny said in response to a question about the poll. Fifty-one percent of the poll's respondents identified themselves as DFLers, a percentage that doesn't reflect the general public, he said.

"Nobody does a one-day poll," he said. "It's done to create a news story rather than to enlighten the public. It makes me upset. We don't do polls, and I think polls are a snapshot in time -- they are not news in and of themselves."

Rob Daves, director of the Minnesota Poll, acknowledged that more respondents identified themselves as DFLers than in the last poll, when the figure was 41 percent. He attributed that to sympathy for Wellstone and said if a new poll were taken in several days, it might show the figure shifting the other way.

In Red Wing, Pawlenty announced the beginning of new television ads that emphasize his positions on issues.

"I think it's appropriate to have positive ads" in the wake of Wellstone's death, he said. "I don't think the public would appreciate going back to negative campaigning."

Since its beginning, the gubernatorial race has stood out for its courteousness, sometimes causing it to be muted by other contests where attacks were frequent and vicious.

Now, as campaigns move toward Election Day on Tuesday, the candidates are walking a fine line between distinguishing themselves and criticizing their opponents.

"Nothing will change the rest of the way," Penny said. "Our message has always been the same: fiscal responsibility and clean politics."

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Said Pawlenty: "We're full blast starting this morning."

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