Along Minnesota's main streets, in communities large and small, recent invitations to talk politics found few takers. Some folks cringed; others brushed off queries, pointing out that elections were months away.
Nathan Garvais, who was pouring tap beers and serving up burgers at Grumpy's Bar on Main Street in St. Bonifacius, can attest to the political apathy.
On a rainy Tuesday, two of his patrons had ''no comment'' when asked what issues were important to them -- a response Garvais predicted would be standard for others as well.
''They're more apt to talk about fishing and the weather than they are to talk about politics or things like that,'' he said. ''Not too many people will start to think about it until the end of September or early October.''
A gentleman on Main Street in Shakopee was less polite, threatening to sic his dog on his unsolicited callers if they didn't leave his property.
For every person willing to chat about issues or candidates, another two had other matters on their mind. Even among those ready to weigh in, most just scratched the surface of education, tax and farm policy.
It poses a challenge for candidates seeking state and federal offices, who are working to get the attention of voters, beyond the die-hard politicos. If they swing through places like St. Bonifacius, Shakopee and Waconia, it's a difficult chore.
Not all folks clam up at the mention of politics. Without hesitation, William Hart threw out tax cuts as his No. 1 issue.
Hart, 46, stood along the American flag-lined Mainstreet in Hopkins -- while waiting for his wife to emerge from the eye doctor -- and drew a $20 bill from his wallet to emphasize his point.
''Give me back the cash, I want to see the money,'' Hart said, his voice rising.
The textiles salesman, who tends to vote Republican, said he appreciated tax cuts and rebates approved the past two years by the Legislature. He said state and federal lawmakers can still go deeper -- and do something to slow rising property taxes while they're at it.
Down the street, James Williams, 46, took the opposite view. He would rather hear candidates talk about investments in public education than politically popular tax cuts.
''We've gotten to the point where a large amount of society just doesn't want to pay for the benefits we get,'' said Williams, who splits his time between a Hopkins sporting-goods store and a Minneapolis school, where he teaches theater courses. ''Everyone wants to have a bigger boat, a bigger car, a DVD player ... it's shortsighted.''
Farm policy was on the mind of Lloyd Bradenburg, who was fishing just off a stretch of road that connects the Main Streets of St. Bonifacius and Waconia. Bradenburg, 85, worries about the low commodity prices for his son-in-law, who farms in nearby Watertown.
''They just struggle along,'' said Bradenburg, a retired farmer. When pressed, Bradenburg couldn't identify possible remedies.
Candidates realize that engaging voters at this point can be tough, said Bob DeCheine, a DFL veteran of campaigns who is managing Mike Ciresi's U.S. Senate effort. He said the trick is to reach out to the half-million or so people who are a sure bet to vote in the primary and hope the rest of the electorate tunes in before fall.
''There isn't a whole lot you can do between now and then to change it,'' DeCheine said. ''People are not engaged because they don't want to be engaged yet. They'll get to it when it matters to them.''
Back in Hopkins, Julie Wischmann, 40, first listed education as her top issue. Specifically, the mother of three wants state legislators to go back to work on the Profile of Learning if the fix they approved this year proves hollow.
On reflection, Wischmann decided she'll place a heavy emphasis on character issues. With a strong economy and the nation enjoying relative peace, she and others confess to putting as high a premium on personalities as they are on issues.
''It's hard to find an honest politician,'' said Wischmann, of Delano. ''Everyone wants someone with a clean record and you're not going to find it.''
At a Waconia ice cream shop, Rachel Bening echoed Wischmann. As her two children giggled in the background, Bening, 36, described why she won't vote for Vice President Al Gore.
''I could go for an honest candidate, not a Bill Clinton or an Al Gore,'' she said. ''They're too close.''
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