Today on the MPR News Update, we're all over the 2012 campaign as the clock winds down, from candidates to ballot issues and beyond. Also, we hear from hunters gunning for wolves in Minnesota. And, there's news about the Nice Ride and another Minnesota Opera original.
DOWN TO THE WIRE: President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are in a down-to-the-wire race for the White House that has split the nation down the middle after a long, hard slog that upended conventional wisdom time and again, smashed campaign spending records and pushed the limits of saturation politics. By this time tomorrow, everything will be in the hands of voters.
CLINTON, RYAN BARNSTORM: While polls continue to show Obama with a lead in the Minnesota over Romney, Minnesota has gotten some last-minute attention in the past week. GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan blew through the Twin Cities on Sunday with a campaign stop at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, and former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Obama in St. Cloud.
LAST CHANCEFOR BILLS: DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and her Republican opponent, Kurt Bills, faced off against each other Sunday evening in the debate sponsored by MPR News. It was the last chance for Bills, who is trailing far behind Klobuchar in the polls, to try to make his case. Full video and coverage of the debate can be found here, including breakout links to highlights in the video.
BACHMANN OVERDRIVE: GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves, met for a final broadcast debate on Sunday. In a sign of the fundraising advantage she enjoys over Graves, viewers were treated to three of her campaign ads during the half-hour event.
THROW THE BUMS OUT? HARDLY: When the results are counted this Tuesday, Americans will have resoundingly rehired a big majority of the House and Senate despite telling polling firms for months that they tired of an ineffective, bitterly divided Congress. Why is that?
MARRIAGE AMENDMENT: The tight race for the constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and woman kicked into an even higher gear over the weekend as the campaigns for and against the proposal started their sprint to the finish.
MARRIAGE DEBATE VIDEO: In case you missed the debate we hosted last week at the Fitz, we've posted video of the event here. Supporting the amendment: Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. And Rev. Jerry McAfee, New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Against the amendment: Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop, New Hampshire, and Sarah Walker, founder of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition.
VOTER ID AMENDMENT: If it passes, what impact will it have? Minnesota would become the 34th state to enact a voter identification requirement, but only the second to put it in the state constitution. The laws vary widely. Indiana's ID law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, is considered among the strictest. Minnesota's could be even stricter. But if voters approve it, most of the details, including the cost, won't be spelled out until the next legislative session.
A NON-VOTE IS A 'NO' VOTE: Did you know that, since 1898, voter ratification of a proposed amendment requires not just more "yes" votes than "no" votes, but a majority of "yes" votes from all ballots cast in the state? That's right. Non-votes on a ballot measure effectively count as "no" votes.
HANDS OFF: For the past three years, the Internal Revenue Service hasn't been investigating complaints of partisan political activity by churches, leaving religious groups who make direct or thinly veiled endorsements of political candidates unchallenged. The issue is closely watched by a cadre of attorneys and former IRS officials who specialize in tax-exempt law, along with watchdog groups on competing sides of the church-state debate.
WELL, ARE YOU? "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Ronald Reagan asked in 1980 at the end of a televised debate against President Jimmy Carter. The answer was his landslide win. Since then, the question has become a cudgel for political challengers, a survey question for pollsters and a barometer for the mood of the country. Campaign 2012 is no exception.
MANCHURIAN CANDIDATES: In not-entirely-unrelated arts news, the Minnesota Opera is returning to the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize winning "Silent Night" to commission an adaptation of the classic cold war thriller "The Manchurian Candidate." Kevin Puts will compose the music for Mark Campbell's libretto for the piece which will be premiered in May 2015.
RATE INCREASE: Speaking of your finances: Xcel Energy filed a request for a $285 million rate increase on Friday with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Xcel says the average residential customer's monthly bill would go up $9, while a typical small business could see an $11.30 increase.
WOLF HUNT BEGINS: At the end of a rough and muddy trail in southern Koochiching County this weekend, a few miles from Northome, six hunters hunkered down over a simmering pot of spaghetti and talked about the challenge of taking part in the state's first managed wolf hunt. By Monday, more than 50 wolves had been killed, according to the DNR.
HUNTER SHOT: The daughter of a deer hunter shot and killed during Minnesota's firearm opener says her father was insistent upon firearms safety and raised his family to be careful hunters.
FAMILY MEMBER STABBED: The child-care license of a West Duluth woman has been revoked after an investigation concluded she stabbed a household member in front of children.
SANDY UPDATE: More challenges face residents affected by Superstorm Sandy, not the least of which is getting to work today. More of the New York City subway system is running, but not all of it, and gasoline shortages persist in the city and in New Jersey. We have a state-by-state overview here.
JARED ALLEN APPOLOGIZES: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is embarrassed. Not just for letting Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson control most of the second half in leading Seattle to a solid 30-20 win over Minnesota on Sunday, but for wasting one of the best games in Adrian Peterson's career. Peterson rushed for 144 yards in the first half alone, the most in the first-half of any game in his career, including his NFL record 296 yards rushing against San Diego in 2007. And he piled on more yardage in the second half - to no avail.
MINNESOTA NICE (RIDE): The Nice Ride bike sharing program has had its busiest year yet. Customers used the green bikes for almost 275,000 trips, the most for the non-profit group since it started renting bikes in 2010. During that time, only four bikes have gone missing. One of them was returned -- a year later.