MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota caucuses are set to take place on March 1. If you’ve been watching TV in the last week, you’ve probably noticed ads for Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The candidates have made numerous visits to the state, and that is unusual. Minnesota, normally a bystander in the primary and caucus contests, suddenly has the Democratic candidates’ attention.

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Both candidates have made significant ad buys here. Sanders’ ads sound his populist message.

“If you are doing everything right, but are finding it harder and harder to get by, you are not alone,” begins one of Sanders’ ads.

Clinton points to her experience in her ads, with one saying “the presidency is the toughest job in the world, and she is the one who will make a real difference for you.”

This is the first time in years Minnesota has gotten this kind of attention ahead of its caucuses.

“Minnesota is turning into an incredibly important state in the Democratic caucus primary season. It matters more this year than it’s mattered in a long time,” said Professor David Schultz of Hamline Law School.

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Sanders has had his St. Paul campaign office up and running since December. In addition, Sanders has field offices in Rochester, St. Cloud, Bloomington and Minneapolis, with a storefront presence in Duluth.

“Minnesota is absolutely integral to our national strategy, so we plan to do well here,” said Robert Dempsey, state director for Bernie Sanders.

Clinton also has multiple campaign offices throughout the state.

Three weeks ago, the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll showed Clinton leading Sanders 59 percentage points to 25.

Experts say the resources pouring into Minnesota are an indication that the race has tightened significantly.

“This is a state that Sanders views that he can win, and Clinton wants to make sure he can’t win it,” said Dempsey.

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On Monday, Chris Fields, deputy chair of the MN Republican party, said he expects Republican candidates to begin putting resources into Minnesota immediately after South Carolina’s Republican primary, which is on Saturday.

Esme Murphy