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Face-off in Mankato

From MSNBC.com's Tom Curry
"Who would have thought that Mankato, MN would be the center of the political universe?" asked an amused Bryan Anderson, the campaign spokesman for Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R), who is locked in a tough re-election fight against Democrat Tim Walz.

"Come join Tim Walz in welcoming Senator Kerry to Minnesota's First District!" says the Walz release. The suddenly much more newsworthy Kerry is the guest star at a Walz rally in Mankato at 12 noon Wednesday. Walz, a harsh critic of the Iraq war, has repeatedly invoked his own service in the Army National Guard as a candidate credential.

The Kerry-Walz rally will come just an hour after Sen. John McCain -- fiercely critical of Kerry's comment about poor academic performers ending up in uniform in Iraq --appears in Mankato to whip up support for the GOP ticket headed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Walz campaign spokeswoman Meredith Salsbery said Walz is on the road in the far western part of the district and has not yet commented on the Kerry furor. At this hour, the Kerry event is still scheduled to proceed as planned.