Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will be in Minnesota Saturday night to raise campaign money. The fundraiser, behind closed doors at a Minneapolis restaurant, will be Ryan's only event in Minnesota.
The decision by Ryan and his running mate Mitt Romney not to publicly campaign in Minnesota shows the state is losing the swing state status it held over the past few elections.
The Romney/Ryan ticket is treating Minnesota more like a cash machine than a battleground state.
In August, Romney attended a fundraiser at a Lake Minnetonka Country Club and then left with no rally, no speech, nothing to attract a big crowd of potential Republican voters. The only glimpse supporters, protesters and reporters got of Romney is when his car drove past the front gates of the golf course.
On Saturday night, Ryan will give Minnesota the same dine and dash treatment. Officials with the Romney campaign say Ryan will not hold any public events. Instead, he'll speak before donors who give at least $1,000 to attend the event at the Solera Restaurant in Minneapolis.
The private gatherings by Romney and Ryan are a dramatic departure from the last three presidential contests where the top-ticket candidates held Minnesota events in the heat of the campaign.
A few third party candidates have stumped in Minnesota. Libertarian Gary Johnson — spoke before 150 people at Macalester College last month.
"I don't want you to think that I'm standing up here thinking this is some sort of protest vote. If there is anything to have been learned over the past year, anything is possible," Johnson said.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge said Ryan's visit will motivate Republicans even if he isn't holding a rally or giving a speech. Shortridge said he'd like to see the campaign invest more time in the state but understands the emphasis on Ohio and other competitive, swing states.
"People who analyze politics for a living, as I do and others do, will look at races differently and come to different conclusions," Shortridge said. "I still believe and hopefully we can persuade them in the last four weeks here that Minnesota is winnable."
Shortridge and others say Minnesota's long history of backing Democrats for president makes it hard to convince the Romney campaign and Republicans nationally that Minnesota will vote for a Republican for president.
"One of the things that Minnesota has cutting against it from a Republican perspective is history," said Tony Sutton, a former Republican Party Chair who also served as party treasurer and executive director of the state party. "We haven't gone Republican since 1972. So even if the numbers look relatively close, I think there's still going to still be a hesitation because of history."
Sutton said Romney or Ryan could still hold a campaign event in the state if the polls show a close race. But that may be unlikely.
The Romney campaign doesn't have a separate campaign office in Minnesota. Most of the party's national money is being directed at re-electing Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack in northeastern Minnesota.
The Democrats haven't been spending much time here either. President Barack Obama last campaigned in the state in June. Vice President Joe Biden held campaign events in Minneapolis and Rochester in August.
Jeff Blodgett, who runs Obama's Minnesota office, said Romney may not have a presence in the state but he said outside groups are spending millions on TV and campaign mailings in Minnesota to try to defeat the president.
"The opponents are the only ones doing advertising in this state on the presidential race," Blodgett said. "That's what we're up against. We're up against candidates who are running for other offices but seem to only be running against the president. We definitely don't take anything for granted."
The Obama campaign has 11 field offices and more than 40 paid staffers in Minnesota. Blodgett said the campaign is using those staffers and volunteers to help turn out voters on Election Day. He said there are no current plans for Obama or Biden to visit Minnesota over the next three weeks.
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