HIBBING, Minn. — An enthusiastic crowd of 5,000-7,000 Iron Rangers packed the Hibbing Memorial Building Oct. 19 to hear Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards. The crowd was warmed up with anti-Bush chants like: “Like father, like son — one term and you’re done!”

Union members and their leaders were prominent at the rally, especially those of AFSCME and the USWA. Former Vice President Walter Mondale reminded the crowd that Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy both stopped in Hibbing during their campaigns and both went on to win close elections.

The size and spirit of the rally, which was organized on short notice, indicates that Iron Rangers are mobilized and motivated to remove Bush and his anti-worker administration on Nov. 2.

A slogan this writer has used effectively this election season is: “November 2, 2004: America takes out the trash!” There are few undecideds in this struggling region, which has been hard hit by plant shutdowns and the general decline in the steel industry.

What makes northeastern Minnesota important to a Kerry victory is the high voter turnout here, which often approaches 80 percent, and the lopsided margins that means to Democratic candidates from this voter-rich and solidly working-class area.

The NRA has endorsed Bush and has tried to divert hunters and sportsmen and women from voting their economic interests. Edwards reminded the crowd that the Kerry-Edwards ticket will protect their rights to hunt and use motorized sports vehicles on federal lands.

This last-minute diversion on gun rights is undoubtedly a desperate tactic by the Bush campaign and its allies to try and prevent a complete rout in northeastern Minnesota. Judging from the Oct. 19 crowd in Hibbing, people on the Iron Range are not likely to be thrown off target.

— A Ranger