By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With just seven days to go before the election, last minute visits by former President Bill Clinton and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are raising a new question: Is Minnesota in play?

It’d be wrong to call Ryan’s stop at the Romney headquarters in Hudson, Wis., a campaign stop. It was a storm relief effort for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“Let’s think about those who are still in the storm’s damage, and let’s not forget that help is still needed,” he said.

After his Wisconsin stop, Ryan was spotted Tuesday night at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill in St. Paul.

Tuesday’s stop was the first public visit by Romney or Ryan to the Twin Cities area in eight months. It’s a sign that Minnesota’s presidential race could be closer than expected.

Former President Clinton shored up the Democratic base at two Minnesota stops: Minneapolis and Duluth. He described the president as far more likely to help the middle class than his opponent.

“Notwithstanding what Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan say, I am more enthusiastic about campaigning for Barack Obama than when I campaigned for him four years ago,” Clinton said.

Republicans are pouring last minute money and energy into the Minnesota race, and say there are signs the president is fading with the economy.

“We don’t like what’s going on. We don’t like the direction,” said Pat Shortridge of the state’s Republican Party. “We want something different. We’re independent thinkers, and we’re going this way.”

But it’s all about who votes.

The Minnesota Obama campaign says it has a bigger get-out-the-vote ground game than any presidential campaign in the state ever.

“We know how important voter to voter contact, neighbor to neighbor to neighbor conversations are,” said Kristin Sosanie, of the state’s Obama Campaign. “Those are so much more important than any sort of TV ads.

A Star Tribune poll found Romney within 3 percentage points of Obama. Obama won Minnesota by 10 points in 2008.


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