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Campaigns battle ahead of Super Tuesday

On a recent weeknight, a dozen volunteers clutching cell phones and reading from iPads made call after call, urging Hillary Clinton supporters to turn out Tuesday for Minnesota’s caucuses.

Chris Hupke with Donald Trump's campaign staff talks with Brian Braaten as he unpacks some lawn signs and banners prior to a town hall style meeting at the Rochester Township Town Hall Thursday night February 25, 2016.

On a recent weeknight, a dozen volunteers clutching cell phones and reading from iPads made call after call, urging Hillary Clinton supporters to turn out Tuesday for Minnesota's caucuses.

Among those making calls in the bustling Rochester campaign office was Rene Chartier. The 60-year-old online businessman said he and his wife, Marilyn Morton, decided four years ago they would get behind Clinton if she decided to run in 2016. He believes the former Democratic secretary of state is the most qualified candidate for president.

"She gets things done. She doesn't make promises she can't keep. She's realistic about what she can accomplish and the challenges ahead," Chartier said.

The late-night phone banking at the Clinton campaign office is just one example of the way campaigns are trying to build support for their candidates in the lead up to Super Tuesday. Minnesota is one of a dozen states holding primaries and caucuses on Tuesday. With hundreds of delegates up for grabs in both parties, Minnesota is getting more attention from candidates than in years past.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is slated to be in Rochester on Saturday night for a rally at the Mayo Civic Center. Chelsea Clinton is expected to visit Med City on Sunday or Monday to campaign for her mom. While Clinton and Sanders continue to battle it out to be the Democratic party's nominee, three Republican candidates are locked in a fierce fight for the nomination. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump is the front runner, having won primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina and caucuses in Nevada. Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, winner of the Iowa caucuses, has amassed the second most delegates so far, followed closely by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Two other Republicans also are seeking to win over voters — Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.


Making the case for Trump

At the same time Clinton volunteers were busy working the phones, a group of people gathered at Rochester Town Hall to listen to one of Trump's adviser's make the case for the New Yorker. Chris Hupke touted Trump's business experience, saying the Republican candidate is a tough negotiator who can handle crisis situations.

"You've got a guy that has got the executive, the management experience. That has created tremendous wealth," Hupke said. "How difficult is that? Tremendously difficult. What other candidate has that experience?"

Those arguments resonate with Rochester voter Brian Braaten. The 53-year-old business owner said he's been backing Trump since the candidate jumped into the race. In the lead up to caucuses, Braaten has been helping organize small, town hall events to give voters a chance to learn more about Trump's campaign. Braaten said he's tired of political correctness and appreciates that Trump is willing to speak his mind. He said plenty of people he talks to feel the same way.

"They are tired of us getting run over by the world, and that's what's happening. Whether it's immigration, whether it's Black Lives Matter, whether it's the Chinese, whether it's trade — America has taken a back seat, and we don't like it," he said.

Drazkowski helps lead Cruz campaign effort

None of the Republican presidential candidates have opened an office in Rochester yet, but that doesn't mean local volunteers aren't hard at work. Mazeppa Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski has been busy organizing volunteers working to convince Republicans to vote for Cruz on Tuesday. Drazkowski is co-chairman of Cruz's Minnesota Leadership Team. He said he appreciates Cruz's support for the Second Amendment, opposition to abortion and desire to move toward a flat tax.

"As conservatives, we want to see someone who is going to stand up and do what they say they are going to do, and that's Ted Cruz," Drazkowski said.


Rubio touts endorsements

Rubio also has been working hard to woo Minnesota Republicans in recent days. Last week, he headlined a rally in the Twin Cities that drew a crowd of more than 1,600. His campaign has been touting endorsements from prominent Minnesota Republicans, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and two local lawmakers — Rep. Duane Quam and Sen. Dave Senjem.

Quam traveled to the Twin Cities to see Rubio and said he was impressed by what he heard. In particular, the Byron Republican said he is struck by Rubio's humble beginnings. The Florida Republican's dad is a Cuban immigrant who worked as a bartender, and his mother worked as a hotel maid.

"Many of the candidates over the last few decades have been millionaires or now billionaires. And I think it's sort of refreshing having someone that has a life experience in touch with average Americans," Quam said.

Sanders supporters campaign

Democrats backing Sanders have been busy knocking on doors and phone banking at the campaign's Rochester office. William Morrison said he's been spending a lot of time volunteering for the campaign, including staffing an information booth at Rochester Community and Technical college. The 32-year-old college student said he's backing Sanders because he is a "true progressive." He said he appreciates that Sanders isn't looking for big money from Wall Street and supports single-payer health care.

Morrison added, "He wants tuition-free college, and I completely support that because I'm currently a student, and I have thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans."


Chris Hupke, with Donald Trump's campaign staff, talks with guests at a town-hall style meeting at the Rochester Township Town Hall on Thursday night, Feb. 25, 2016.

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