updated 8/14/2006 3:53:49 PM ET 2006-08-14T19:53:49

Minnesota's politicians are getting a jolt of energy this election year from national heavyweights such as Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and Republican strategist Karl Rove - but accepting their help isn't without risks.

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"When you invite a guest, you inherit both his friends and his enemies," said Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

President Bush - who's coming later this month for GOP congressional candidate Michele Bachmann - is the latest on a list of prominent visitors including Vice President Dick Cheney, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

All the attention is focused on Minnesota because of several competitive races that could help tip the balance of power in the U.S. House and Senate. The big names help local candidates raise substantial sums of money and rally their supporters.

"We love you John Edwards!" a woman shouted from the crowd last week when Edwards spoke during a visit last week to help Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar's campaign.

But prominent visitors also symbolize ties to power on both sides of the political spectrum - and that gives opponents an opening for attacks.

"Sometimes when a celebrity comes into town, it just fires up the opposition," said former state GOP chairman Ron Eibensteiner.

Minnesota Republicans used Edwards' visit to link Klobuchar to the party's left wing.

When Cheney rallied donors for Bachmann earlier this summer, DFL chairman Brian Melendez said he "embodies the Republican culture of corruption."

Still, prominent visitors are such successful fundraisers that most candidates want to welcome them, even if the attacks sting. A single event headlined by President Bush brought in about $1 million for GOP Senate candidate Mark Kennedy last year, and First Lady Laura Bush brought Kennedy about $550,000 during a visit in June.

Kennedy's campaign ads proclaim his independence from Bush and the GOP on key Minnesota issues.

"Anybody who tells you that the dollars aren't the number one reason (for visits) isn't being real straight with you," said Ron Carey, state Republican Party chairman.

With competitive races for governor, U.S. Senate and at least two U.S. House seats, expect the stream of high-profile visitors to continue in the 12 weeks before the Nov. 7 election.

"You've got one of the most competitive Senate races in the country, you have got a competitive governor race, and you've got the potential for at least one turnover in the House," Sabato said. "Minnesota is on everybody's list for visits."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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