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Good Question: Do Candidate Visits Lead To More Votes?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Tuesday it was Vice President Joe Biden packing rooms in Minneapolis and Rochester. Thursday it will be Mitt Romney in Minnetonka for a fundraiser.

When polls show almost all voters have made up their minds, do candidate visits really sway any votes?

“If we were Ohio or Florida, an uber-swing state, absolutely,” said Ben Golnik, a political strategist who oversaw the Dakotas for John McCain’s presidential campaign.

How does it work? It’s not about the people who show up to a rally, Golnik said, it’s not even really about firing up the faithful. It’s about the news coverage.

“Because you get the headlines, you’re front page above the fold, two three four times a week,” he said.

Researchers have looked into the broader question of whether presidential campaigns themselves make a difference, considering the Electoral College only has undecided voters in swing states really impacting the election.

The Center for Politics looked at advertising spending and the presence of field offices in 15 swing states. They found that 13 states went pretty much according to historical voting patterns, but two of them were impacted by ad spending and field offices.

In 2008 in Indiana, for example, Barack Obama spent almost $18 million on ads, and had 14 field offices. John McCain spent $3 million and had no offices. Obama won Indiana with 50.5 percent of the vote, when he was projected to get about 44 percent based on historical voting patterns.

“The impact on voters is indirect,” said Golnik. “I think a lot of it is still designed by traditional media.”

The vice president’s visit to Minneapolis got on TV in the Twin Cities, which broadcasts into Wisconsin, another swing state. His visit to Rochester got into three states.

“Rochester is interesting, you hit Wisconsin and Iowa,” Golnik said.

Media exposure isn’t the only reason a candidate visits; money is the other.

“The Twin Cities is a big metro area, and there’s a lot of opportunity for money,” Golnik said.

He said money is the only reason a candidate would spend the money to visit a state that isn’t considered competitive.

Mitt Romney doesn’t have any public events on his schedule for his Twin Cities visit, he’s only doing a big-bucks fundraiser in Minnetonka, which will limit the coverage he gets in free media.

“The State Fair starts Thursday, maybe he’ll do an unannounced visit, swing by the state fair and get those headlines,” Golnik said.

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