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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken does an impression of President Bill Clinton to the amusement of Sen. Hillary Clinton during a Monday afternoon rally for Franken in Romano Gym at the University of Minnesota Duluth. staff photo by Amanda Hansmeyer

Clinton stumps for Franken in Duluth; Giuliani in St. Paul

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Hillary Clinton barnstormed into Duluth Monday for one last really urging northern Minnesota voters to help bolster the Democrats' majority by electing Al Franken to replace Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate.

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The New York senator, former first lady and one-time presidential hopeful was the headliner at a UMD rally for Franken that also included U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.

"Minnesota, this is it. The balance of the Senate may hang in your hands,'' Clinton told a receptive audience.

Meanwhile Coleman got his own last-minute boost from another New York politician: Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was in St. Paul to back his fellow Republican.

Giuliani and GOP congressional candidates joined Coleman to rally supporters at O'Gara's Bar and Grille.

The O'Gara's rally was one of more than a dozen campaign stops for Coleman in the final hours before polls open. He and Giuliani also urged Republicans to get friends and neighbors to the voting booth today to support presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

The first-term senator asked his supporters to put everything they've got into helping him win a second term by getting people to the polls.

"This is your time," Coleman said. "We've done the things we can do."

Giuliani fired up the crowd by singling out Franken.

"I've seen how nasty his opponent has become, and I've got to believe the people of Minnesota have had enough," Giuliani said.

Recent polls showed the Franken-Coleman race too close to call and one of the most heated in the country as Democrats try to build on their slim majority in the Senate and Republicans try to hold what they have

Clinton praised Franken as a man with integrity and a sense of humor but also a serious commitment to working families.

"If you want to help President Obama get his agenda through, you need Al Franken,'' Clinton said, even "deputizing'' the crowd to spend the last hours of the 2008 campaign convincing undecided voters to back Franken.

"It doesn't have to be a leap of faith,'' Clinton said of support for Democrats, comparing the eight-year economic record of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and President George W. Bush.

Clinton said the economic and foreign policy "mess'' left behind by Bush will be difficult to repair "but we have done it before and we will do it again,'' she said to rousing applause.

The waiting line to enter the event formed more than three hours before Clinton arrived on a foggy November evening and snaked down tunnels inside several buildings more than a quarter mile.

A UMD official said the Clinton/Franken rally crowd was likely larger than the 3,500-person capacity Romano Gymnasium holds when configured for basketball.

Chelsea Funfar, a UMD freshman, said she wasn't sure who she was voting for -- Coleman or Franken -- but that she felt compelled to see Clinton speak.

"It's on campus, it's a big deal, I had to come'' she said, noting a professor let her out of class early to attend.

"I've never been through a political thing like this before. It's kind of confusing. But I wanted to see what she had to say,'' Funfar said.

Zach Moore, a UMD sophomore, said he's voting for Coleman today but wanted to see Clinton. Moore is crossing party lines to vote for Obama, he said.

"Part of it is the star power. You don't normally see someone with this much power in Duluth and on campus.'' Moore said.

Sharon and Tom Pecach of Orr drove to Duluth to see Clinton, even waiting two hours in line to get a good place to stand.

Pecach said there was never a doubt she'd vote for Franken, but that she was spurred to attend the event to see a woman who nearly was nominated to be president.

"I was a big Hillary supporter. But I'm all for Obama now,'' Sharon said. "I want to be part of the enthusiasm and the excitement and to see her in person. She's a great lady.''

Clinton was in Hibbing stumping for Obama and Franken on Oct. 21.

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