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Minn. comes into focus in final days to election

Associated Press Modified: November 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm •  Published: November 2, 2012

He said DFL volunteers had phoned more than 286,000 people and knocked on more than 83,000 doors statewide, saying the DFL base was "extremely strong."

Until recently, Romney supporters who wanted a sign had to head across the border. These days, it costs only one volunteer shift in a GOP campaign office. The state GOP has shouldered the load, opening up 40 so-called victory centers that officials say are on pace to exceed a million voter calls. The state House Republican caucus expected to knock on 400,000 doors by Tuesday.

Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said he thinks the significance of Obama's vaunted turnout machine is overstated at a time when economic anxiety remains high and independent voters are willing to give Romney a late look.

"You can have the world's finest sales force but if you have a lousy product you still got a lousy product and people aren't going to buy it," Shortridge said.

Some Democrats have voiced concern privately that Obama is struggling in northeastern Minnesota, a stronghold given its high union membership. But it's also home to many white, male, working-class voters who have trended strongly in Romney's direction elsewhere.

So Obama's team is playing to the president's strengths: It stresses the administration's efforts to rescue the auto industry — enormous amounts of Minnesota-mined taconite become steel car doors and hoods. In Duluth, wind energy is the buzzword because of the massive turbines that move through its Lake Superior port.

Romney's ads in Minnesota play up the former Massachusetts governor's accomplishments alongside that state's Democratic legislature as a contrast to Obama's difficulty in working with GOP congressional members.

Neither candidate has spent much time courting Minnesota voters, though both have stopped in for campaign cash.

Vice President Joe Biden last visited in August; he held a campaign rally just across the border in Superior, Wis., on Friday. Ryan gave an airport tarmac wave and made an impromptu stop at a St. Paul restaurant Tuesday, the same day that Clinton visited Minneapolis and Duluth.