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Noting that there were only 148 days left until the election, newly endorsed DFL Senate candidate Al Franken led a kickoff rally Monday on the steps of the State Capitol with a bluntly worded assessment of his rival, Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
Coleman, he said, "hasn't brought people together to get things done. He's sold people out to get ahead." Minnesotans, he said, "need a senator who has their back. Norm Coleman isn't even on their side."
In what is expected to be a common refrain, Franken, who received his party's endorsement over the weekend, linked Coleman to President Bush, talking about the "Bush-Coleman recession."
Coleman forces were equally blunt with their rejoinder.
Moments after the rally had concluded, Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, was reminding reporters about what Republicans call "Porn-O-Rama," their culled pieces from Franken's 30-year comedic career.
The Minnesota race will be one of the hardest fought and most expensive in the country, between two moneyed candidates whose fundraising appeal extends well beyond the state.
Both candidates also have further fence-mending to do within their own parties.
Coleman is under pressure from some Republicans to go back on earlier votes against oil-drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge now that gasoline prices have reached dizzying heights.
Franken, meanwhile, must reach out to those still offended by earlier jokes about women, rape and other sensitive topics. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who had criticized Franken over a 2000 article for Playboy, was absent from Monday's rally.
Her chief of staff, Bill Harper, said McCollum "looks forward to meeting in the coming weeks with Mr. Franken to learn more about his campaign."
Franken on Monday kicked off a four-day tour of the state that will take him to Duluth, Moorhead, Alexandria and Winona.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288