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Sen. Bernie Sanders banked heavily on Minnesota to give him a win over Hillary Clinton as the next round of presidential voting approached, campaigning in the state on Monday for the third time in four days.
“We think we’ve got a real chance to win here,” the Vermont senator told the Star Tribune in an interview, though he disputed the idea that a Clinton victory in Minnesota would be a fatal blow to his hopes of winning the Democratic nomination.
More than 2,000 people attended Sanders’ noon rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the day before Minnesota and a dozen other states weigh in on Super Tuesday. That followed rallies in Hibbing last Friday and Rochester on Saturday. Chelsea Clinton made several Minnesota appearances for her mother on Sunday and Monday.
In a sign of the intensity of the fight in Minnesota, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced she is returning to the state on Tuesday for a last-minute campaign stop.
Sanders wasn’t the only second-place presidential candidate to set his sights on Minnesota: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, desperately in need of a win or two against businessman Donald Trump, was scheduled to appear at a rally in Andover on Tuesday, just a few hours before caucuses open.
Rubio chased votes in Minnesota last Tuesday. The Andover setting of the caucus day rally reflected his campaign’s attempt to jump-start support from moderate Republican voters clustered in suburban districts.
As Rubio escalated his attacks on Trump over the weekend, prominent backers from Minnesota weighed in as well. Rubio’s campaign released a statement on Sunday from former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, weighing in on Trump’s refusal in a CNN interview to disavow support from white supremacist David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.
“Republicans need to speak out and make it clear that Trump’s values and KKK values are not Republican values,” Coleman said.
Trump’s campaign started organizing in Minnesota only in recent weeks but did throw several well-attended pre-caucus gatherings in the Twin Cities and other Minnesota locations in the last few days. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also has a shot at a Minnesota win.
The Sanders and Clinton campaigns are both invested in Minnesota. The Clinton campaign has thrown a series of house parties across the state aimed at generating grass-roots energy, with daughter Chelsea the main attraction at several.
At a Monday event at a home in Duluth, Chelsea Clinton told about 75 Clinton supporters that her own recent motherhood has made her even more invested in her mother’s campaign.
“Now that I’m a mother, this election just feels that much more urgent to me because everything I cared about before I became a mom has a sharper focus to it,” Chelsea Clinton said. “Didn’t even know that was possible.”
Sanders spoke for about 50 minutes in Minneapolis. He went through his by-now familiar set of concerns: income inequality and wage stagnation, heavy corporate influence in campaigns and the legislative process and calls for a revolution in American politics.
Asked if his hoped-for revolution is playing out as he hoped given Clinton’s recent wins in Nevada and South Carolina, Sanders told the Star Tribune that there is still time.
“Has everything happened as I wanted? No,” Sanders said. “Are we doing much better than anyone thought we would? Absolutely.”
Pat Cavanaugh, a political scientist and research consultant from St. Paul, was at the Sanders rally to show support. She said Democrats are underestimating Clinton’s vulnerability in November.
“I never thought she was inevitable, or particularly electable,” said Cavanaugh, citing ongoing scrutiny of her time as secretary of state. “If she’s the nominee, I think she’s a sitting duck.”
Also on hand to see Sanders — and meet privately with him for a few minutes before the rally — was former Gov. Jesse Ventura, whose own unconventional background and penchant for flamboyance has inspired comparisons to Trump.
Ventura said he’s politically closer to Sanders than Trump, specifically mentioning Sanders’ strong antiwar views and noninterventionist foreign policy. But he had encouraging words for Trump, too.
“I’m fine with Donald. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, and I would endorse him on the Republican side,” Ventura said. Of Sanders and Trump, he added: “These are the two candidates that are not owned by special interests.”