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Todd Palin draws enthusiastic cheers in Duluth area

Todd Palin, left, Sen. Norm Coleman and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre share the stage at a rally for Coleman at the Hermantown Gander Mountain parking lot.
MinnPost photo by Catherine Conlan
Todd Palin, left, Sen. Norm Coleman and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre share the stage at a rally for Coleman at the Hermantown Gander Mountain parking lot.

HERMANTOWN, MINN.—Todd Palin, Alaska’s so-called “first dude,” got louder cheers than the man he was introducing Thursday afternoon — Sen. Norm Coleman — at a rally here aimed at engaging Second Amendment voters.

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, introduced Palin, who is the husband of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain’s running mate. The crowd of several hundred cheered wildly when he took the podium. LaPierre and Palin spoke of Coleman’s support of Second Amendment rights.

Palin proved as popular as his wife as women squealed and men cheered references to his snowmobile racing. He spoke very briefly and gave no interviews as part of his whirlwind tour, heading off to Grand Rapids after the Duluth-area appearance to help shore up support in red pockets of a blue area.

“I’m proud to be a part of the McCain-Palin ticket and help out any way I can,” Palin told the crowd.

Drawn to rally for various reasons
While many in the crowd wore hunting gear and cheered references to the Second Amendment, other people came for different reasons.

Barbara Stellmach
MinnPost photo by Catherine Conlan
Barbara Stellmach

Barbara Stellmach, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Duluth, brought her daughter, Maria, to the rally. “Abortion is by far the most important [issue] for me,” she said. “Also, I’m out here to help support the American way and keep this a capitalist society.”

Sean McCaffrey, a 24-year-old mechanic from Duluth, brought his 10-week-old son Jack and sported a “Veterans for McCain” sticker. “I’m against just about everything Obama stands for,” said McCaffrey, who said he served in the Army in South Korea and Kuwait. “Mostly taxes. And military experience is a plus for me.” McCaffrey said he had been a member of the NRA, but wasn’t sure if his membership was still valid.

About 50 protesters waved signs and chanted in the parking lot before they were asked to move across the street by Hermantown police officers.

“I’m here to support my candidate; I’m not here to demonstrate,” said Deborah Josephson, a social worker from Duluth who carried a “Women for Obama” sign. “I want to make sure that returning troops get the health care and mental health care that they need.”

‘A friend you can count on’
Palin evoked his home state when praising Coleman. “Norm Coleman stands with those who want to live off the land and protect it,” he said. “I may be from Alaska, but even I know when you have a senator like Norm Coleman, you have a friend you can count on to do the right thing.”

Coleman spoke briefly about his support for gun ownership and his affection for the NRA. He said his father, who died within the last year, was buried as a World War II veteran at Arlington National Cemetery, as was former NRA leader Charlton Heston. “They’re together now, looking down on us,” Coleman said to respectful applause.

David Engblom, a retired 67-year-old mechanic from Duluth, said he came out to support the McCain-Palin ticket. “I’m scared about what might happen with Obama as president,” he said. “He would have an opportunity to set people in place that reflect his idealism to a socialist-communistic state. He’s greased, he’s so smooth. Hearing about him reminds me of when I was a teenager hearing about Castro.”

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