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Candidates get help on trail

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. - The guest was just as popular as the candidate when Sen. Norm Coleman and Gov. Tim Pawlenty walked into the restaurant.

Minnesota's two top Republicans worked the dining room, greeting supporters, signing autographs and chatting up school children.

But the focus was on Coleman.

"We're all rooting for you," a woman told the senator fighting to keep his job.

"I appreciate that very, very, very much," Coleman responded.

Coleman enlisted Pawlenty's help Tuesday as he kicked off the final week of his re-election campaign. They were pairing up for two days of campaign stops, from Farmington to Alexandria.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Democrat Al Franken was joined by Minnesota's top elected Democrat - Sen. Amy Klobuchar - as he urged supporters to get active in the final week of his campaign. At a St. Paul coffee shop, he told college students the gap between American promise and reality has widened in the past eight years.

"This election is about restoring the American promise, and we're going to do that in seven days and we're doing to do that starting in January by getting to work," he told the crowd at Ginkgo Coffeehouse.

Both candidates are asking popular politicians to join them as they battle one another in what some experts call the only toss-up Senate race in the country. Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley, trailing significantly in the polls, also is campaigning around the state this week.

Speaking at the suburban St. Paul restaurant, Pawlenty said it was appropriate Coleman's campaign tour is called the Hope Express. Coleman is a "positive, energetic problem-solver" whose judgment and wisdom can be trusted, he said.

"And with all due candor, Al Franken is not," Pawlenty told the Khoury's Restaurant and Bakery crowd. "This is not a time to send to the United States Senate somebody who has no record of leadership, no record of service, no record of accomplishment..."

"Perhaps Al should be thinking about City Council to start, not United States Senate in historic and challenging times," he added.

Coleman highlighted his years of service - and asked the group to help give him six more.

"It is about leadership, and that's what is required now," he said.

Across town, Klobuchar told the crowd of students from nearby Hamline University that Minnesota needs to elect another Democrat to the Senate in order to carry out the policies of a Barack Obama presidency.

Klobuchar, who like Pawlenty enjoys high approval ratings, said Democrats in Congress have put in place a "down payment on change" the past two years, but that Franken and other Democrats must be elected to continue that path.

College students are volunteering in droves for the Franken campaign, said Sean Bibus, a Hamline student and Red Wing native. Bibus stopped short of calling himself a big Franken fan, but said he'll support the Senate candidate.

"I'm going to vote for him because I agree with him on the issues," he said.

Emmett Martineau of Inver Grove Heights sat in the corner at Khoury's Restaurant and Bakery Tuesday morning, listening to Coleman make his case for re-election.

Martineau said he cannot believe Democrats picked Franken to run for the Senate because the former comedian lacks experience. Martineau said Coleman will reach across the aisle to work on difficult issues.

"He just thinks the way I do," Martineau said.