For nearly 40 years, Democratic presidential candidates have banked on Minnesota’s electoral votes.
But a recent Star Tribune/Mason-Dixon poll suggested President Barack Obama’s lead is narrowing in Minnesota.
With a week until the election, the Obama campaign sent former President Bill Clinton to the University of Minnesota for a rally Tuesday morning.
Clinton spoke to an excited, student-heavy crowd of about 1,800 at McNamara Alumni Center.
He deeply endorsed Obama and his policies in his speech, which touched on a variety of issues such as global warming, health care, women’s rights and the economy.
“Barack Obama is your candidate if you want a more perfect union,” Clinton said.
Despite Clinton’s ringing endorsement, Obama has had trouble convincing voters he should get another term, said David Schultz, a law professor at Hamline University.
“I think he’s never been successful in articulating or explaining why he needs four more years,” Schultz said.
Clinton’s visit may have been a move to solidify Obama’s position in the state, he said.
“Clearly, it’s an indication that the Democrats feel like they have to do something just to make sure that this state doesn’t slip away,” Schultz said.
Clinton’s Tuesday stops in Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., were not meant to raise support only in Minnesota, Schultz said, but also swing states like Wisconsin.
“Notice the two places where he’s going to be,” Schultz said. “The Twins Cities and Duluth are also places that are going to capture part of the media market in Wisconsin.”
Clinton’s Minnesota visit came just days after Romney and his allies started airing TV ads in the state.
GOP-leaning groups including Americans for Job Security and American Future Fund have spent $615,000 this week. Romney spent a much lighter $29,000 last week, and it was unclear how much his campaign was spending this week.
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan visited Wisconsin on Tuesday to campaign and aid local volunteers in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
His opponent’s efforts led Obama to follow suit to prevent the state from slipping out of his grasp. His campaign has spent $210,000 on ads in Minnesota this week.
The Star Tribune poll found that Obama had just a 3 percentage point lead over Romney, which is within the poll’s margin of error. Obama won Minnesota by more than 10 percentage points in 2008.
Schultz said that although the national polls are close, the Star Tribune results may have under-polled Obama’s support by using more landline phones in its data gathering.
The margin of error, he said, could also give Obama a much bigger lead in Minnesota than the poll indicates.
Obama’s lead is in line with past poll results for Democrats in Minnesota, Schultz said, adding that Obama’s 2008 margin was unusually high.
“This election may be closer to the norm in terms of what it’s been between the Democratic and Republican nominees in past elections [in the state],” Schultz said.
Rebecca Doepke, president of the University College Republicans, said she thinks Obama’s “nasty” debate behavior has turned off some voters, which she guessed may have contributed to his dwindling lead in the state.
“Obama has been more on the defensive, and he’s attacking Romney for things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with presidential things,” Doepke said.
She also said she was surprised at the amount of support she saw for Romney while phone banking in Duluth.
“I think the numbers are showing across the country that Obama doesn’t have this massive lead,” she said.
Schultz said Romney’s debate performances also played a role in his poll success.
“In that first debate, Mitt Romney looked like a viable alternative to Barack Obama,” he said.
Schultz credited Romney with running a gaffe-free campaign as of late but also said that Obama’s campaign has been tentative at times.
“I always describe it as Obama seems to be running a campaign like he’s a football team in the fourth quarter sitting on a lead,” Schultz said.
-The Associated Press
contributed to this report