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Not all state Republicans are happy

Many Minnesota Republicans want the party to move further to the political right. Even some presidential hopeful John McCain supporters sound more like backers of maverick candidate Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has ignited a desire to retu...

Many Minnesota Republicans want the party to move further to the political right.

Even some presidential hopeful John McCain supporters sound more like backers of maverick candidate Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has ignited a desire to return to GOP politics of old.

"There is a level of frustration, mainly with ourselves," Bill Weber, Luverne, said Friday as the Republican state convention began at Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.

Once Republicans were elected, they "tried to out-Democrat Democrats," he said, spending too much money. "There is a recognition of what went wrong."

While Republican leaders said they are united going into the fall campaign, Paul and many in the convention hall were not happy with the party's politics.

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"We have been plummeting to the left," Paul state coordinator Marianne Stebbins said.

Convention officials refused to let Paul talk to the convention, saying McCain will be the party's nominee. But about 400 people turned out early Friday to hear Paul talk.

Paul delivered a 39-minute speech urging Republicans to return to their smaller-government, Ronald Reagan philosophy. The congressman and medical doctor admitted he cannot beat Arizona Sen. McCain in the presidential contest, but said it is important to deliver his message.

Michael Barrett, who ran for the Congress from western Minnesota two years ago and now is a state party official, said he expects Paul supporters to back McCain, despite numerous attempts by Paul supporters Friday to change rules and allow more favorable conditions for the long-shot candidate.

Becky Martinson of Wadena County said part of the reason she came to the GOP state convention this year was to gauge the mood of fellow Republicans.

It was difficult to do, she said.

"I think it is uncertain," Martinson said of whether Minnesota Republicans are unified heading into the 2008 election. "It's a little muddy."

Like other Republicans, Martinson said she is not entirely satisfied with McCain.

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"If he's our guy, I'll be behind him," said Martinson.

Some Republicans were excited about their chances in the presidential and U.S. Senate races.

"We're enthusiastic about both of them," said James Tisdell, New York Mills.

Paul supporters frequently offered up boos Friday when their proposed rules and other provisions failed to prevail. They were especially upset that rules hindered their efforts to elect Paul delegates to the summer's national convention in St. Paul.

But convention Chairman Fran Bradley, Rochester, lectured them to join with the majority once votes were held.

Knowing he was in the middle of farm country, Paul said that the federal government should abandon subsidies.

"Farmers could do a lot better without the government," he said, citing tobacco farmers, who were cut off from federal payments four years ago and today are making more money. "Markets do work."

Coleman looks to re-election bid

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U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman asked fellow Republicans on Friday to help send him to Washington for another six years so he can continue his public career of "bringing people together."

In a speech emphasizing both core GOP principles and his willingness to work with Democrats, Coleman accepted his party's endorsement for another Senate term on the first day of the Minnesota Republican Party's state convention in the Mayo Civic Center.

The senator peppered his 35-minute acceptance speech with examples of how he has helped average Minnesotans navigate state and federal government, including the family of a young boy with cancer, victims of northwestern Minnesota floods and those affected by last year's Minneapolis bridge collapse.

"People don't need an ideologue ... they need somebody who can make government work for them," Coleman told GOP activists in one of a few references to his likely Democratic opponent, Al Franken.

The party's message to Democrats, Coleman said, is: "Keep your hands out of our pockets; keep your hands off our change."

Coleman, a former St. Paul mayor, laid out an ambitious set of priorities for a second term, including making earlier tax cuts permanent, cutting "wasteful Washington spending," ending America's reliance on foreign oil and securing the country's borders.

Franken criticized for Playboy column

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said that a Playboy column written by Senate candidate Al Franken eight years ago was offensive and presents a serious political problem for Democratic candidates this year.

McCollum, who had supported Franken rival Mike Ciresi until he dropped out of the race, said that she was worried that Minnesota Democratic congressional candidates will be running with a candidate "who has pornographic writings that are indefensible."

Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" star and best-selling author, is the Democratic front-runner to take on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

Two other Minnesota Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, also expressed concerns Thursday about the 2000 sexually explicit satirical column, which Republicans began circulating last week.

In the Playboy piece, titled "Porn-O-Rama!," Franken envisions visiting a "Minnesota Institute of Titology." He jokes that "since I've been married 23 years, I naturally chose" receiving virtual oral sex.

Franken is the heavy favorite to take on Coleman, although he does face a challenge from college professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

Davis and Wente report for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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